Putting the Dad into Single Dad

Yesterday in the UK was Father’s Day, a typically overblown corporate sponsored event designed to shift boxer shorts, novelty ties and as many soft rock compilation CDs as possible. I celebrated it in as close to traditional style as possible – I was treated to breakfast in bed, got a few presents and went out for the day with the kids.

This was my first one as a single dad, so was more poignant than before, as evidenced by the fact I needed to get ironing done that night for school the next day rather than relaxing with a beer or two in front of the tele. How times change.

All this made me realise that so far I’ve been concentrating on the ‘single’ part of ‘single dad’ on this blog, so it’s about time I thought a little about the ‘dad’ part.

As keen readers will have noticed by now, I am the proud father of four children (at least I am when they manage a whole hour without doing anything that results in letters home from their teachers). I never planned on having four children by this age, of course, let alone being a single dad, but nevertheless here I am.

I look after them 50/50 with my ex; to date it’s been a lot more like 70/30 with me taking them a lot more, though hopefully over time this will balance itself out and become more even. This has caused me no end of challenges when it comes to arranging dates; I simply can’t be spontaneous most nights unless I know I’m free, which is all too rare. Considering that most online dating profiles value this highly, I am already at something of a disadvantage.

And it also means I am facing a real quandary when it comes to how they are affecting my choice of potential romantic partner.

I am dating for my own benefit right now. I am meeting new people and having fun in order to put a smile back in my eyes and to help me start a new, happier life. However, I have realised that every date has a dual layer.

The immediate layer is attraction; am I attracted to this person? Whether it’s physical, intellectual or any other form of attraction, I’m dating people that I am in some way attracted to. However, underlying this is another, deeper layer with a fundamental question underpinning it; would this woman make a good co-parent?

Before I go further, I want to be clear that I’m not looking explicitly for a step-mother for my kids. We are already developing into a happy little unit and establishing our own habits and rituals for living a happy family life together. However, every relationship I have will impact upon them in some way, shape or form, even if that’s only reflecting my romantic partners making me happier.

Some of the women I’ve met have been parents themselves, whilst some have not been but would be happy to be a parent without undergoing the childbirth part. But, in either case, at some level I’ve needed to work out whether or not they would make a good potential parent for my own kids. If things go well and we develop a close relationship then it’s inevitable that they will ultimately meet my children; I’ll still be expecting to be the main parent, but we would need to work out a way of incorporating them into our lives and creating a new family unit.

I’m guessing, however, that most women aren’t interested in this. At best they want someone like me, but someone with whom they can start their own families rather than plugging into one already made. Some women don’t want to share a man’s affections, or simply want to enjoy being an adult and the freedoms that brings rather than settling down with children to raise.

Of course, it’s not entirely like that. I now get the joys of raising children combined with the joys of free time from them. I get to go to school assemblies some weeks knowing that the next week I’ll be abroad. Some evenings I get to tuck them in and read a bedtime story, while others I can throw dinner parties safe in the knowledge I won’t be waking them if I turn the music up. That dual life is something I’m taking as a blessing in disguise, and offers up fun opportunities for the right woman to become a part of.

All of that, of course, is way, way down the line. Even the topic of considering a date’s parenting skills is enough to put most women off even meeting me, let alone dating me. It’s a tricky line to tread and is introducing a world of complexity that I’ve simply not yet considered, but hopefully one day I’ll need to work it out with someone and they’ll want to work it out with me.

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