Dating After Divorce: What About the Kids?

I’ve known my entire adult life that I didn’t want kids. My first husband was in agreement and volunteered to get a vasectomy at 22, soon after we were married (try finding a doc willing to do that procedure!). All was good on the childless front.

And then I ended up single and back on the dating scene at 32. An age where my body (as far as I know) could still have babies and many age-appropriate men either already had them or would soon want them.

I was in the position to revisit my former decision never to have kids. And I realized that my position was not based on my former husband. Not only did I not want to have them, I didn’t want to be in a mother role of any kind.

I further made the very deliberate decision to never date anybody with kids. And I was very up front (even on my Match profile) that I never wanted kids. In fact, kid issue was one of the only deal breakers for a first date.

Some men tried to convince me that it was okay because they never saw their kid(s). That only made it worse (trading dad for deadbeat dad…).

One man assumed that I only wanted to avoid pregnancy for appearance reasons and concluded that I wanted to adopt. That was just absurd (stretchmarks don’t bother me, it’s the living, breathing endless responsibility I don’t want).

I encountered some great men (and seemingly great dads) that were kid- and family-oriented.

And I still said no.

Partly for me.

But mainly for them. Because I knew that I wasn’t what they were looking for and I didn’t want to waste their time (or risk their kid’s hearts).

And now happily married to a man that also didn’t want kids (reaffirmed after a stay with a 2-and 4-year-old over the holiday!), I’m very glad I made that choice to be vocal and committed to my personal choices.

But not everybody agrees.

—–

A woman wrote in to Dear Prudence recently who was in a 4-month relationship with an older man who had a 5-year-old son. The woman expressed her concern about being ready to date somebody with a kid. The response was to not worry about the kid yet and just be in the moment.

If the writer wanted kids in the near future or was even open to the idea of a kid, I would agree.

But she seemed unprepared for that step.

Fine for her.

Hard for the guy.

And potentially devastating for the kid.

I’ve watched friends stay in dating relationships too long for the sake of the partner’s kids.

I’ve witnessed the struggle when a non-parent and doesn’t-want-to-be-a-parent partner has to learn to accept their 2nd place position to the kids.

And I’ve seen kids, jettisoned once by their parent’s divorce, try to come to terms with abandonment by a parent’s partner.

Parenthood, either by biology or association, is a huge commitment. One that I believe should be taken deliberately and with the utmost care and consideration.

But of course, that’s coming from someone who has made the choice to avoid it.

So, I’m curious about your thoughts. If you have kids, would you consider dating someone who was ambivalent about children? If you don’t have them and you’ve decided you’re not ready to be a parent, would you be open to dating somebody with kids?

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29 thoughts on “Dating After Divorce: What About the Kids?

  1. So I have a child and recently have found myself dating again after divorce. I contemplated leaving that bit of information out of the dating scene, but can’t. Before a first date I make it known that I have a young kiddo. Life as a mom with a young one is very busy, and I try to make that known. If the prospect gentleman has no desire in children then it’s easy to just say sorry we won’t work out.

    As my single status is fairly new I’m still trying to figure out the dating scene again. But kids are on my list just as much as they were not on yours. It’s imperative to hold true to those wishes and not let anyone change your mind because they won’t be a good match.

    My brain twists at the thought of being a step-mom, but I can do that as long as he still wants more kids with me. Call me Carol Brady… Lol

    1. Thanks for sharing! It makes total sense to me. I can’t imagine being able to mentally partition “mom” from dating. Your child (as it should be) is a huge part of your life and needs to be taken into consideration with anyone you bring in.

      May you find your Mr Brady when you’re ready:))

    2. Personally, I will only date a man if they have kids. Cause I have them, I don’t wanna date someone who hasn’t ever had them. I feel they wouldn’t understand the responsibility of what it takes too be a parent. So only choose to date single Dad’s. And the more the merry with more kiddos.

  2. The kid issue is hard, it complicates things, and it’s not just one or the other. I have kids- they are 19 and 16. Almost grown. I am looking for a partner who has been in a long term relationship and raised children. I don’t want to date men who have never experienced that, but I also don’t want to raise young children again, which many men my age still have since I had mine early. Now I’m doubly limited. My last boyfriend still had young children, and that was part of why it didn’t work out. I’ve spent the last 20 years raising kids, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I don’t want to start the process over again.

    1. That does get complicated. And I understand your view of wanting someone who “gets” kids and yet not wanting to start all over again with young ones (that very thought makes me shudder!).

      I also had a limited dating pool because most men in my age group either had kids or were ready to start a family. The kid issue is complex, but I also think that when clarified, can help to narrow your choices for dating. And too many choices aren’t good either.

      Good luck on your search!

    2. I think hopenotgone nails it. My girls are 13 and 15, remarkably mature and independent (for their ages). The idea of having more, younger kids via a girlfriend is not terribly appealing. And I don’t want any more kids of my own!

      1. “Sounds like the “been there, done that” feeling is common after getting through the younger stages!”

        Hence the relatively high abortion rates among 40somethings: http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/women/articles/2003/09/30/unexpectedly_expecting_pregnant_after_40/

        Irregular periods shortly before menopause are like irregular periods shortly after menarche, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Keep using protection so you’ll be less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy in the first place!

  3. I think this kind of honesty is so important going into a relationship. I’ve been a step-parent (first marriage), had my husband (second marriage) be a step-parent to my children, and now I’m single again, although not anywhere near interested in dating. I do know, though, that I would never be a step-parent again. The end of that marriage nearly broke me, because I lost kids that I had raised, and they lost the only mum they really knew. Then I ended up -unintentionally- putting my kids through the same with divorce #2. I don’t have anything left in me to give to kids who aren’t mine, and I wouldn’t survive losing kids I had fallen in love with again. Those (hypothetical) children deserve more than that, and ignoring it because I’m enjoying some lusty feeling for their dad would make me a huge asshole.

    1. Well said. That loss of the stepparent/child relationship is huge and rarely discussed. I have friends grieving the loss of “their” kids that they have no legal rights to. So sad. Hugs to you.

      1. Thanks 🙂
        I’m well and truly moved on, but my step-daughter keeps in touch and called me to tell me she was graduating at the end of last year. I could go because her mum would be there, but she wanted to share it with me. Facebook allows us to keep in touch, and it’s the only contact she really has with her brothers, but you have to take whatever good you can get. In comparison, her brother is still very bitter, and hates everyone. So I’m very grateful that I still get to know her.

  4. When I first started dating after my divorce I would mention that I have kids but be vague about the number of kids. I have five kids, lots if people balk at that. I get it, it sounds crazy. Now I can gauge whether my kids (and I just mean me having them not the person meeting them) will be an issue based on the guy’s reaction.

    While I would consider dating someone who is ambivalent about kids I can tell you straightaway the chances of that being a relationship that actually goes somewhere are slim to none. I have gone on dates with childless guys but I find that people with kids better understand the limitations that puts on dating. However, adding two sets of post-divorce kids to the mix seems immensely tricky. Age and number of kids each person has can be a factor as well. It definitely takes some caution and a good measure of honesty, both with yourself and the potential partner, to navigate dating with kids.

  5. This is a huge concern of mine. I have 3 kids of varying age so I want to eventually find someone who doesn’t mind kids but not necessarily wants more. I’m not sure I want more myself, as it is growing up I only wanted one child.

    I have dated a bit but refuse to have any of them meet them. I don’t want any more confusion for them. Unless I see that things are going well I donto want to put anyone through that.

  6. This is my favorite topic RE: Dating after divorce, because it’s the one I believe has the biggest impact on my dating life (that’s speculation, though), and the one I’ve had to come to terms with and evolve on.

    First, I didn’t know how big of an impact it would have. I underestimated it. It’s possible women find me trollish and disgusting, but I’ve come to believe the VAST majority of childless women who are younger than me, as well as many women my age or older with full-grown kids, simply want no part of inheriting a second-grader, even if it’s part time.

    I was offended in the beginning. “But I’m a lot different than all these other guys!” “If she just met me out somewhere without realizing I was a father, and decided she liked me, she wouldn’t hold my parent status against me!” And this was my go-to line of thinking for nearly two years: “My son is only with me half the time. You’re never going to meet him unless we’re in a serious relationship, anyway. So why does it matter?”

    I was being dumb. And selfish.

    Never married women without children will almost NEVER choose a divorced father when they have baggage-free options. That’s a perfectly reasonable feeling.

    I’m not so different. I only have one child, and he’s only there half the time. Frankly, it’s not that hard, but I can appreciate someone without kids not thinking of it in those terms. And I can appreciate it because like my pal Nights mentioned above, some people (I’m one of them) are terrified by lots of kids. 3? 4? 5? The amount of organization, time and money required to give that many young humans a good life seems like an incredibly daunting task when you yourself are an only child and are a father to one.

    I’ve been hypocritical every day I acted as if I was dealt a raw deal because women without children (or even just women who don’t want to be stepparents for whatever reason) preferred other options.

    I think about this a lot because I’m approaching three years post divorce, and while I’ve met some pretty great people, I’ve yet to meet a pretty great person with whom life logistics aligned in such a way that we could realistically have a relationship. 100-percent of the time, that was because of our children.

    I was pretty worried at first, but even I didn’t think it would be this hard. The good news is that emotionally, it’s not. It’s a lot easier to find steadiness and balance once you crawl out the post-divorce Shawshank Redemption sewage tunnel.

    “Why is it so hard to meet people?” friends ask me, either for themselves, or because they’re wondering about me.

    It didn’t take me long to figure it out.

    Last time we were all single, we were high school or college-aged, and for the most part, we were almost exclusively surrounded by A. Single people, B. People our age, and C. People like us. I mean that culturally and demographically, which allows people to more easily discover common interests and to feel comfortable with one another.

    Fast forward 5-15 years to being divorced with children.

    Now, we live somewhere else, or most of our friends have either married or moved out of town. We are not typically in social situations surrounded by single people, and while diversity is a great thing in the work place and in our friendships, the reality is too much cultural diversity in an intimate relationship–especially with kids (and philosophical disagreements on how to raise them)–can cause a ton of problems in marriage.

    Anyway. It’s a little bit hard and shitty.

    And I’ve come to believe it will certainly be a single mother who is the next full-time person in my life, should there ever be one. And I think that is the reality for the vast majority of divorced parents and something people need to come to terms with.

    Apologies for the length of this comment, Lisa. I love this topic. Maybe I’ll write about it again soon.

    I want to thank you for your perspective. Because you, more than anyone else I’ve talked to, have helped me understand how important that boundary is for single women who don’t want to date fathers.

    There are some very wise, mature, responsible, and even thoughtful and unselfish reasons for why. Things I’d never thought of before.

    As this is something that affects me every day of my life now, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a different view than the countless Match profiles with What She’s Looking For: No Kids I come across.

    Hope you had a fantastic holiday season, Lisa.

    Here’s to 2016.

    1. Appreciate your perspective, as always:))

      Thanks and here’s to you finding the right single mom or single woman who doesn’t want an infant but thinks that second graders are the bomb diggity!

    2. Here’s the thing. Maybe it’s not all that important anyway, to have another partner I mean. I am truly loving being single. My friends are great, I have an awesome relationship with my boys. Adding someone into the mix would be difficult. I don’t want them to deal with new partners. Maybe my opinion will change in the future, maybe it won’t. Single sure beats living in a crap marriage.
      Freedom!!!

  7. I am currently back “on the market” and dating sucks. Especially when you are a parent to young children, mine are 11 and 6 and both girls. So I am super cautious, and almost feel like I am back living at home with my parents with the amount of sneaking around I do, because I don’t want to introduce them to every guy I date.
    I used to be a firm believer that I didn’t want to date a man with kids, but now I am slowly turning tables on that topic. I think it makes more sense to date someone that has the same responsibilities as I do, the expectations are not the same from someone that has had no children. It is almost like an unspoken understanding that the kids come first and we see each other when we both have baby sitters and such. It gets more difficult when the kids get introduced, which is why they have me sneaking around the house. I would hate for them to get attached to someone that may not be sticking around, and the same goes for me. I don’t want to meet anyone else’s kids until we know its actually going somewhere.

  8. When I was first divorced and dated men, I was just having fun and didn’t care whether or not they wanted kids, I had two teenaged boys and dated when they were at their dad’s house.

    Then one New Year’s Eve, I fell in love with someone. He had 4 girls. FOUR GIRLS!!! age 16, 20, 29, and 31. (He was the same age as me and had 2 girls while in high school).

    I could not imagine re-marrying someone without kids. After 7 short months we eloped and married in Vegas, and every other week the boys are with us, then the 17 year old is with us the alternate weeks. We had the 4 younger kids with us Christmas Eve at church. We filled up a whole pew! Woo -hoo!

    Make your intentions known if you are ready to get serious. If you are just having fun, use protection and make it known you have kids, but don’t make any long-term decisions quite yet. Just be honest and get out there!

  9. Kids…I have amazing children. So now I am out in the dating world. What I will say if you don’t want kids you just don’t want kids. No one should tell YOU how you feel. In a relationship you both have to want or not want. No exceptions to the rule for this. Its not fair to either of you. My children are teenagers and young adults, so I don’t want to date anyone with little kids, I’ve done that and its a deal breaker for me. I will never choose a man over my children, we are a package deal, no matter what age they are. With that being said its the same for you, you don’t want kids and no one should have ever expected you to bend for him and his children or his wants for children….rant done.

    Love you blog, read everyone, thanks for sharing and letting us know we are not alone in this crazy post divorce stage of life!

    Helen Saxby

    ________________________________

  10. Before I was married, I said I’d never date anyone who was divorced. Too much baggage…then I got divorced…whoops! My Judgey McJudgerson got schooled and now I was divorced with a toddler. I met (through our blogs!) and am now with an also divorced man with a 9 year old, and we just had a baby boy together. We always have 3 kids, though not all physically at the same time…for awhile it was none, now it is one all the time…it can get tricky logistically and financially but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I didn’t think about whether or not the person I would be with after my divorce would have kids, but always put it out there that my daughter and I were a package deal.

  11. I’m so impressed with your strength in making a commitment to yourself and what you want and don’t want. I’m not dating. I have dated a nice guy with a child. It’s weird and a lot of work to manage our schedules with kids. I ended it bc it was too much pressure. You’re right, many men your age want kids or have kids. I think the couple should keep the kids out of it. I learned that lesson the hard way, even apologizing to my daughter.

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