Six Things to Know About Dating Someone With Kids

by Franki Cookney 

If you think dating a parent is all Netflix and no chill…well, you’re not entirely wrong. As a mom myself, I admit my love life comes with a heightened need for organization. But dating someone with kids doesn’t have to mean giving up on fun! And with 13.7 million single parents in the U.S. today, there’s a chance the person you match with will have kids. Here’s what you need to know.

You’re never going to be our number one priority — and that’s ok!

“My kids will always come fractionally before my partner in my list of priorities,” admits Glen, 39, a single dad of four. But this doesn’t mean you’re not important to us. If we’ve gone to the trouble of fitting you into our schedule and arranging childcare, it’s safe to assume we care about you and value our time together. Plus, cancelling plans or turning down invitations isn’t fun for us either.

“There are going to be times when I make decisions that favor my children, even though I may not want to,” says Jon, 40, who has two boys, aged seven and nine.

On the plus side, we’re generally pretty attuned to the fact that you have other commitments too. It’s definitely possible to make sure everyone’s needs get met — as long as we’re open with each other about them.

Free time is a precious commodity.

When you’re a parent, even taking an hour to go to the gym feels like a luxury. So if we’ve set aside some free time to spend with you, please don’t treat that lightly. 

“I can’t handle flaky people,” Glen says. “I’m working hard to make time for them and I need that reciprocated.”

For parents who have shared custody, their free time is likely to come in predetermined blocks. “I have my kids every other weekend,” says Jon. “So I am only available for parties every other weekend. It sounds obvious but a lot of people have really struggled with it.”

Our lack of free time is tricky for us as well. Ziggy, 48, who has a 15-year-old daughter, says: “Remember that I hate not having many opportunities to see you just as much as you do.”

You don’t have to love our kids, but we can tell if you don’t like them!

Parents are aware that hanging out with their kids is not something you want to do all the time. And most of us would prefer to take our time before introducing a new partner to our kids. But there’s a difference between respecting boundaries and not being remotely interested.

Cassandra, 35, who has an 18-year-old son says: “The problem I come up against is people either wanting to be too involved or not caring at all. There has to be a happy medium! Ask how they are, take an interest, but don’t give unsolicited advice.”

Even if you haven’t met them, our kids are a huge part of our lives. If you glaze over every time I mention my child, it will be noticed.

Respect the ex.

Tricky as it may be, this is one relationship where you can’t just write off your match’s ex-partner. They may still play a key role in their kids’ life and that has to be handled sensitively. “It may feel like we are prioritizing our ex over you but we are not,” explains Jon. “They represent the kids so sometimes we have to go with what they say.”

Resist the temptation to wade into conflict, even if you think you’re being helpful. Chloe, 33, who has a 13-year-old daughter says: “Try to remain neutral. Even if your partner complains about their ex, do not join in! On the flip side, do not take everything your date says about their ex as the absolute truth! It’s just one side of it.”

Say goodbye to spontaneity — but become really organized!

Dating someone with kids means scheduling is essential. Babysitters need to be booked, negotiations need to be made with other parents or carers, and the timings are usually pretty strict. Sam, 27, who has a two-year-old daughter says: “The fact is, I have much less free time than you, and the free time I do have needs to be planned. I can’t just join you for a night out at ten minutes notice.”

But organization can also be turned to your advantage. The anticipation before a hot date is really sexy!

We really want to have fun with you.

Lack of spontaneity doesn’t mean we want to stay home all the time. Chances are, our nights out with you are the only opportunities we have to hit up that new bar, or catch our favorite band, so believe us when we say we’re down to have fun.

“On weekends when my daughter’s with her dad, I want sex, wine, fun, long lunches, more sex, meet friends, stay up late, more sex, breakfast in bed, and to sleep late!” Sam says.

Having kids inevitably involves giving up some personal freedom but that just makes the time we spend with you all the more exciting. “I really, really like having the opportunity to feel like an adult individual, as well as a dad,” says Glen. “So I probably like going out more than most!”