My single friends will tell you that these streets aren't getting easier. Dating in your 30s (and 40s!) have a few more considerations that rarely came up in your 20s. For instance, there is a much higher probability that the person that you're interested in has been married before and/or has kids!
Such was the case when I met my husband Y.
I did my research (i.e. speaking to my girls), and learnt that, although single, he had a daughter. My knee-jerk reaction was that a relationship with a dad would be so much more complicated and I shouldn't consider it. However as the months went by, I got to know Y better and realised what an amazing, genuine individual he was. I decided that I couldn't disqualify him based on pre-conceived reservations and should at least give a relationship a try. And the reality was so much better! I learnt that Y is a great and very present father, which proved to be a solid indicator of the kind, decent man he is.
Let me share with you the questions I asked myself before starting the relationship with Y, knowing in advance that he had a child already. I hope this helps guide your thought process should you come across a promising candidate...with a kid. Roughly in order of importance:
"Am I happy to come second?" There will be situations where he will not be available and he needs to spend time with his child. Are you selfless enough to be understanding when this happens and he chooses his kid's priorities over yours?
" What kind of father is he?" This will also guide your answer to the first question in terms of his priorities. Is he hands on and visiting every week or is he a passive "special occasions" dad? Clearly the two require different time demands. While the latter may enable more time for your relationship, it is also indicative of his values and the kind of father he will be to your children (should you choose to have them).
" What is his relationship with the previous partner?" Is it close? acrimonious? How often do they discuss co-parenting? Will you be upset if they are on the phone talking about their child when needed? Conversely, if his partner is intentionally disruptive (late with handovers, missing items), do you have patience to handle these situations with grace?
" Will your partner protect you?" When the inlaws/partner are being meddling or his child is being unreasonably difficult, will he stand up for you and protect your feelings? Your happiness is also important and you need to be able to trust his ability to manage competing interests.
" What relationship do you want (or can have) with his child?" . Are you a bonus mom? A fun auntie? An indifferent gf? Be honest with yourself, and make sure this is communicated to your partner.
There is no wrong answer to these questions, because it's OK to be selfish when it comes to your time and recipe for happiness. You certainly don't want any resentment in future. Factor in "worst" case scenarios, discuss them with your partner and ask yourself if you can accept those arrangements and potential compromises in your relationship.
The key to dating a dad, as with any relationship, is communication. Whether you have already started a relationship with a dad, or considering entering one, I hope these questions will help provide the clarity in defining your relationship with him...and his child.