Whether you love kids or can't stand them, whether you're already a parent or you're childfree, dating someone with kids is hard. Disproportionately, mystifyingly, unbelievably hard. There's a bunch of reasons for this.
Trying to fit romance in around a schedule that's at least twice as chaotic as other people's. Exponentially increased potential for stress and drama. That whole "kids come first" thing creating abominable snowmonsters where there once were special little snowflakes.
No one having respect for their damn elders anymore. Even if your new partner gets along cheerfully with their ex, even if your future stepkids are an absolute delight, even under the most ideal circumstances possible, there's a million more balls to juggle when dating someone with kids compared to regular dating.
And of course, the percentage of stepparents-in-training who are dating under ideal circumstances is some teensy fraction of an even smaller percent. Life is already complicated. You've got work or school, a busy social life, bills, cleaning out the litter box, not forgetting to pick up spaghetti sauce on your way home… Adding a typical relationship in there somewhere can feel like a bit of a tight squeeze. Then when you're dating someone with kids, you need to make room not just for your new partner's schedule, but their kids' schedules and personalities as well. And if your new partner is in a high-conflict co-parenting situationplan for at least triple the usual mental space a relationship might normally take up in your head.
Because dating someone with kids is intense, consider carefully before getting serious about this person — and know that really there are no non-serious relationships when kids are involved. Know too that successfully blending a family takes a long time— 5 to 7 years on average, and even up to 10 years. I quote this statistic a lotbecause it's such an objective reminder that you are not just dating; you are committing. Committing in a way that you've never committed, getting involved in a situation that could shatter you in ways you never knew you were vulnerable.
Yet— the rewards are sweeter for being fewer and further between, and for being harder won.
No one except you can answer the question of whether you should date someone with. Whether you're ready to be a stepparent, whether you'll be a good one, if you should cut loose and look for a less complicated relationship elsewhere. Only you know your strengths and your limits. If you are positive, on a planet of some 7 billion souls, that you have found your Person, and that guy or gal just happens to have a rugrat or two, then you're in this. Buckle up and hang on. These tips can help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls that could trip you up.
When your parents disapprove of your partner
I know we just talked about this, but really I can't stress it enough: dating someone with kids is hard. Really hard. I mean… really, really, really hard. And not in the ways you'd expect; in totally different ways.
Better ways! More exasperating, exhausting, complex ways! You'll feel powerless over the crap you cannot change— which is pretty much everything. You'll feel like your partner's kids don't want you around— and you'll be right. You'll wonder what you're even doing hanging out with people who so clearly want nothing to do with you.
You'll feel compelled to defend your choices to absolutely everyone from your mom to your partner's ex to strangers on the street. I had nothing to do with their upbringing! You need to give your pre-stepkids space, but not so much that it seems like you don't care.
You need to be involved, but not so much that you're overstepping. You need to be realistic about the role you're taking on as a stepparent, yet idealistic enough to keep on truckin' when the road gets dicey. You're helping your partner parent, but you're not parenting yourself.
You're turning all your personal preconceptions about what being a stepparent means upside down, redefining the role till it makes sense to you— because there is no one right way to stepparent; there's only the way that works for you and the blended family you're trying to create.
Basically, you find you're accomplishing impossible, superhuman feats on the daily when here you thought you were just dating someone who happens to have kids— hm. Good news: hard is not the same thing as impossible. Just don't waltz in thinking this whole dating-with-kids thing will be a breeze. You'll end up flat on your ass not knowing what hit you. I am a total kid person.
17 tips for dating someone with kids
I have always loved kids, and they have always loved me. Strangers' toddlers wander over to me, hands outstretched, eyes wide.
Babies stop crying when I pick them up. At family parties, I still prefer sitting at the kid table. So dating a guy with a kid didn't seem like that big a deal to me, especially since I already had a kid of my own. Literally not even one tiny smidge of me worried about not getting along with his .
She was so grouchy about me being around she was practically a caricature. And at first I figured her cold shoulder was normal and expected and didn't let her attitude get to me, assuming it'd pass with time.
Only after I'd been around a year or two and her animosity showed no s of letting up— the opposite, actually— did I start looking for answers why. So many resources for new stepmoms and stepd out there are written as if all incoming stepparents are childless morons who have never interacted with any humans younger than legal adulthood, have never observed in its natural habitat, and don't know the first thing about .
Which may lead you to falsely believe that any stepparents who don't get along with their stepkids are just clueless about kids in general and that's the whole problem. Like any stepparent who didn't immediately fall head over heels for their stepkid must just not like kids that much. Read: there's something wrong with you, obviously. And vice versa, if your stepkid doesn't like you, you're clearly not trying hard enough. Read: yep, you're still the problem here.
But for a kid person such as myself, surely my transition into becoming a stepparent would be way easier.
For a kid person, then the stepparent-stepkid relationship would totally gel. If you like kids, then yes, you have one less hurdle to overcome. But one less hurdle out of a bajillion or so ain't much of a head start. There is not anything you're doing wrong or could be doing differently to win the kids over when dating their parent; them warming up to you is just a process that takes time. There are no shortcuts that will force the kids to like you.
You just gotta hang in there and put in the time. If you were just dating someone with kids and that single element— the mere presence of tiny humans— were the only wild card, becoming a stepparent would be way easier. But there's sooooo much more to dating someone with kids than trading in candlelit dinners for play dates:.
Your time with your new partner is restricted by their time with their. How long should you wait to meet your partner's kid anyway?
2. yes, even if you're a total kid person
You don't want to wait so long that everyone gets performance anxiety, but you also don't want to get too close too quickly. Also, are you emotionally scarring your partner's child if you hold hands in front of them? What about kissing? Is kissing okay? Changing your grownup plans due to kid stuff like someone getting homesick while at a sleepover and needing immediate picking up.
Ruined couple plans or family plans due to last-minute visitation schedule changes, maybe frequently. Half-assed dates like "Let's go to my kid's soccer game and grab pizza on the way home" which sounds kinda fun and cute and family-like but in reality ends up as you sitting on the sidelines being totally ignored by everyone from the soccer coach to your partner.
Calls or texts at awkward times from your partner's ex, which are hopefully only kid-related but maybe sometimes they aren't and you don't always know which and you feel weird asking.
1. dating someone with kids is really hard
Your own unrealistic expectations about blended family lifeyour stepkid's behavior toward you and your partner's willingness or lack thereof to be your advocate. Your partner's unrealistic expectations about the role or lack thereof you'll play in your stepkid's life, about how involved you'll be or not be, about what counts as overstepping vs. How supportive your family and friends are about you dating someone with kids, including how much well-meaning but crap advice you'll have to ignore. The degree to which you're willing to let go of your personal vision for the family you hoped to have someday and the future you envisioned for yourself.
To sum up: dating someone with kids is about WAY more than just the. You can't separate the kids from everything that connects those kids to your partner—custody schedules, extracurricular activities, the other parent, general kid and parenting stuff, financial obligations, endless driving kids around to here or there. Focus on flexibility and keep yourself open to changes happening — because happen they will, and more often than you probably expect.