Dating with kids…
So, you’ve been told your whole life that as traditional courtship goes; “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage…”
Thankfully, it’s 2015 and society as a whole has become far more accepting of doing things ‘a little bit backwards’ or ‘against the grain’ if you will…
While flipping through my facebook feed one day I saw an article labeled something like “Why couples who have kids before getting married are more likely to last…” It got me thinking about why that might be as I continued to scroll past but couldn’t find the article again.
It made me think about my own family. They say babies bring people together. If I hadn’t had my son out of wedlock, we wouldn’t have the beautiful family we have today. I think about how we got here & what it was like in the very beginning of our relationship. And dating…Do you remember what it felt like when you first started to fall in love? Our love story was a little different than some, I suppose. Ours included my baby. That’s right, my baby, not his.
I’ll be honest, I was in no position to date. The idea was out in left field. I’ve told many before that I thought I’d never date until my son was in school… or at least done breastfeeding. I thought for many reasons that dating or giving my attention to someone other than my son, didn’t have space in our lives. But as I adapted to single motherhood, which didn’t last long I might add, our world started to become a much brighter place.
And well, when you’re happy, truly happy, people notice. Someone I already knew noticed. But I’d never thought about him ‘that way’ before…. So, for him, it was going to take some effort to convince me this was going to be worth my while…
Afterall, “he wasn’t asking me to marry him, he was just asking me to dinner.” Before I knew it I was accepting a one-way ticket to a baby-free night, free dinner & the company of another adult. So, you see, dating with kids is a bit different than just dating. I checked my phone about a hundred times to make sure my baby was okay & tried my best to just enjoy myself.
Our first few dates were followed by many cancellations. I either found that the sitter didn’t work out or that I just didn’t want to leave my young babe. Hesitation set in and I finally gave him a swell of excuses like, “I’m not sure if this is the right time…” or “I just have a lot going on right now…”
I was a little afraid, too. Let’s get a little too personal… I mean the idea of being with a man after having had a baby a short time ago was kind of intimidating. Ever heard of “damaged goods”? well, I didn’t want him seeing mine!
In all seriousness though, when your dating with kids, there is a lot more to it… You have to consider what is going on behind the scenes, too. I was still putting the finishing touches on getting our lives together as a 2-member tribe & navigating the beginnings of a co-parenting routine with my son’s dad.
Some would say, it was “too soon to date”, even “selfish” of me and “irresponsible to introduce another man into my son’s life”. But after about a month of going back and fourth I finally told this patient man that “my life belongs at home with my baby, you’ll either fit in or you won’t”. So, I went out on a limb & invited him over to make pizza with us. The first thing he did when he walked in the door, was get right down on the floor with my then 7 month old to engage with him. I believe it was in that moment that a quiet voice in my head said “I think I might be falling in love with him.”
I had no idea how this was going to work but I knew a gentleman when I saw one. The days we spent apart became few & far between… He would show up early before work to help shovel me out after a snowstorm, bring me coffee, sneak in after my son went to sleep & *gasp* even clean my house! Yup, if you’re looking to win over the heart of a single mother, cleaning her house is probably at the top of the list! But I’ll tell ya, I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or grateful, at first.
He quickly grew to be a part of our lives & we were learning what it meant to date with a kid sandwiched in between us. It came with great reward & great challenge. While gravity pulled my heart in his direction, I still had to keep my head on straight. My son was and would always be, my first priority. I made sure he knew that. He respected that and we took things as slowly as I wanted to…
At the time, I don’t think I compared this kind of dating to what it was like before having a kid. I don’t ever remember stopping to think “what it would be like if we didn’t have a third wheel.” I was falling in love with the idea that someone wanted to experience this life with me. He got just as excited as I did when my baby crawled & said his first words. “We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just thought we were having fun.”
Some short months later, chance had all three of us moving into our first place together & planning little P’s first birthday party. Crazy, I know! There was a moment when I thought to myself, “this is either going to be the best decision I ever made or the worst.” I figured I might as well find out sooner, rather than later if we were going to work. It’s one thing to play house & another to actually live in it…
Real life was rushing home to get dinner made, run a bath for the baby & read bed time stories. Real life was getting up multiple times in the night to nurse the baby & bring him to bed with me. Real life was stepping in a puddle of puke in a dark room of a sick baby. Real life was changing a gag-worthy ‘poo-nami’.
The man I was falling in love with more & more each day went from being a bachelor to filling an entirely new role. Thankfully, he was a natural. As I watched him get up in the middle of the night to bring my baby to me so I could nourish him with my milk, change diapers & read stories, I could feel my heart making room for us to become a family of 3.
It was a bit of a fairytale as I’d tell you a million times over that looking back at my life 2 years ago, I’d never imagined we’d be where we are now. Though we are blessed, building this life still came with it’s fair share of detours. My new partner gracefully watched from the sidelines as my co-parenting partner & I navigated custody arrangements, my son having a baby sister & my ex’s rocky relationship. While I thought “most men would run in the opposite direction”, he stayed. He stood by my side & supported us through it all. From the good to the absolute worst, he has always been right here with us.
There were times when I thought to myself, “how could I ever give this man as much as he gives me?” The more you give, the more you get, right? It took me a long time to understand that all he wanted was us, his family and that was enough. It takes a special kind of man to do what he does & I found him… As lucky as I am to have found him, he is equally as (he’d tell you way more) lucky to have found the two of us.
As a blended family we have now survived, a 1st & 2nd birthday, 2 family reunions, hosted our 1st Thanksgiving & Christmas, a failed anniversary weekend get-away, 2 Easters, 2 dads, 2 nights of tricks & treats, many firsts and an abundance of memories in between.
As I reflect on the article title “Why couples who have kids before getting married are more likely to last…” I think that maybe it’s because we already know what it’s like to share the good, the bad and in-between. We can handle the surprises & unexpected because well, we already have. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re a single mom or dad thinking you want to date again, I’d say get ready for a roller coaster ride! If you’re a bit scared, you have every reason to be but I’d also tell you that there are ones out there worth riding with. There are ones out there who will grip to the handle bars at times too, hold your hand tight & even scream with you when the ride gets scary but if you’re lucky enough to find one of those people, they’ll be right there with you, smiling when the ride comes to a halt.
With a grateful heart,