1.You’re in it for the long haul.
There’s a difference between booty calls and dating. For single mothers, these two are never farther apart. Everyone needs sex including single mothers, but for a good mother, there’s one steadfast rule. No one meets the children until they have expressed an interest in the long haul.
I know a little boy who meets every guy his Mom brings home, and he can’t help it. He wants a Dad. He becomes attached. Then one day they leave. He’s left wondering why they leave him.
If it’s just sex, that’s fine but it needs to be said out loud before things go too far. It's not just yours and her hopes and dreams on the line. Hit it and quit it, or get ready to care. Don’t trust a mother whose child has lost multiple father figures already. Everyone gets hurt.
You can’t always know where things will go so as a rule of thumb, tread lightly in the hearts of yearning children.
2. You should know it’s a package deal.
This seems like a no-brainer and going into my current relationship where I am a “StepFather” to two girls, I knew this. When we began dating, the girls were young, age one and three. Now they are five and seven. I knew very little about kids coming in and knew even less about dating a mother.
No one expects that a mother will choose you over her children, and that’s true. If she does, such as breaking a promise to the children to be with you, that’d be the second thing to avoid. Eventually, that original passion needs to settle into a structured routine. There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in the Moment but no one wants to feel more invested in their children's well being than the other. From day one, I decided three things and followed through on two.
- That’d I’d always put the role of mother, over girlfriend.
- I’d never break a promise to the kids no matter how tired or distracted. If I say we are going to McDonald's, we are going to McDonald's.
- I wouldn’t try to be their Dad, just a friend. ( This one went out the window real fast.)
3. The time you weren’t there makes a difference.
In my case, the one-year-old doesn’t remember a time without me. She has my mannerisms and has no problems with the way we run a household. We are peas in a pod. The three-year-old, however, knew from the jump that I wasn’t her Dad. She hadn’t met her biological father at the time, but visitations started soon after. Thus, we began years of her not knowing who’s in charge, who should she listen to, and who is her “real” Dad.
Much to my pleasure, she refuses to call me step-Dad. I’m just Dad. Tucking her in, getting her dressed, playing with her can’t be replaced with eleven hours a week of ignoring her in his house. She knows who cares, and who knows her.
The first two years were a nightmare because of this. That angst and anxiety landed her in therapy. More often than not I was the bad guy, and it was awful. When a child has bounced around to someone different every day of the week, they don’t know who to follow or who to trust. Eventually, with time we figured out where we fit together. She needs more approval than her sister, and someone not blood to talk to. Still, those first three years took three years to repair.
Also, it’s good manners to not share your thoughts on biological parents. I have her mother's back and we “always” agree. But we never bad mouth her bio Dad. She knows I dislike him, but not that I’ve planned his murder every day for five years now. He's a useless parasite twisting a girl's heart because he felt the need to mark his territory, never pays child support, and never spends visitations with her. Though, if you ask my now seven-year-old she’d say I don’t have an opinion but he thinks I'm a bad influence. There’s enough complication in life without my grudges. The other day she told me “every day my heart breaks, and on Sunday I have the funeral” (Sundays are visitation days). This should be avoided even if I wasn’t able to.
4. You’re going to fall in love with all of them, not just Mom.
In the beginning when I said, “Hey, we’ll just be friends,” I couldn’t have been more wrong. You can fight it, but if you spent time caring for, watching over, teaching, and protecting children they will own your heart. I’d have dreams where I failed to protect them. I routinely go sit on their beds while they sleep to make sure they're okay, and on bad days they are what gets me through. I want to spend time with them, and I want them to want to spend time with me. If someone in the house is unhappy, we all feel it. It’s called being a family but was new to me.
Our first year dating, we moved in together after 60 days into a house. I had the summer off and spent that first year in the thick of it, alone with the girls all day, learning how to Dad. It was an amazing summer. Now the bad news you wouldn’t expect: it’s hard to spend all day with little girls, when everything is fashion, puppies/kitties, dolls, and pony fashion dolls, and then slay your girlfriend in the bedroom the second she gets home. All that love and wholesome childhood Moments royally messed with my testosterone. I was Momma bear to those cubs all summer while my girlfriend went to work and sexually harassed her secretary (in my head). Still, you think it won’t happen to you, it does. Your own body trains you to take care of those kids. You can’t just switch back to smashing the ladies at six o’clock. Be prepared and be honest. Avoid pretending it’s not happening or you’ll lose it all anyhow and end up a single, heartbroken, and down a quart of testosterone growing man tits.
You're going to fail, but if you put the welfare of the kids you're raising before your relationship, the damage won't be so bad. Of course, Mom needs love and attention too; balancing what everyone needs separately is hard. Thankfully, the thought is what really counts.