Let’s be frank, dating, in general is hard. Dating when ALL of your friends are married or engaged is even harder. In 2015, this was me. I was on my way to an annual cookout with all of my friends to mark the “end” of summer. Headed to a cookout where seemingly everyone, but myself, fell into two categories: married or engaged. Being in your mid-to-late twenties, this can make it EXTREMELY difficult to date, let alone actually meet someone to date when you’re typically just the third wheel. Nevertheless, I loved hanging out with my friends and their husbands, who had become my friends, so on to the party I went.
Then, just like the movies, it happened. Somehow, for once, I wasn’t the ONLY single person at the party. I walked in and instantly noticed the cute guy across the yard. I needed to know more. I’d never seen him. Could it actually be my luck that he was there, alone, available? The answer would be, no, he wasn’t. He wasn’t there alone. He was there with his two-year-old daughter, recently divorced. Most would read or hear these two lines and RUN for the hills. You’re thinking , “You’re in your mid-twenties, you’re single, you don’t need that kind of baggage, that responsibility.” But, I’m here to urge you to reconsider, to tell you why you should take the chance on the single dad.
Before deciding if I was ready for this new world of dating, one that would require master scheduling to accommodate custody days and both our work schedules, I first needed to get some background information. I didn’t know this man OR his story. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting into a situation that would set me up to get hurt. Luckily, we had mutual friends, so I was able to lean on them for information (and as I’d find out later – he had been doing the same thing). It’s important to know the back story from caring friends along with his perspective. In my case, I had learned what an EXTRAORDINARY dad this man was, which was further confirmed as I watched him play and interact with his daughter throughout the night. There were no cheesy pick-up lines, no abandoning of his fatherly duties to try to “make-a-move.” In fact, nothing of the kind. We chatted and went our separate ways, not evening exchanging numbers that night. But you know what–that proved something to me. This guy was different. He was one of the good ones–one of the ones that are extremely hard to find in today’s dating world, one I just knew I needed to take a chance on.
Flash forward to one of our early dates. We were planning to go to an Indianapolis Colts game, one of our shared interests. I was excited to spend the day with him, to get to know him more, and see where this was heading. A few hours before our scheduled date, I got a message. We would either need to cancel our date, or he would need to bring his daughter with us as the custody schedule had changed abruptly. This was a big moment–we were early into dating. Was I ready to spend the whole day with him and his daughter? What would that entail? What would that mean?
Looking back now, it meant SO much more than I knew in that moment. Was the date very different than the ones you picture from the romantic comedies filled with “Kiss-Cam” scenes? Absolutely! Instead, it included listening to Disney Pandora on the ride to and from the stadium, along with lots of bathroom and snack trips. But, it was by far one of my most favorite memories of our dating relationship. Why? I got to see what so very few women get to see–how their significant other will one day be as a father. I was able to see a man who was so very devoted to his child. Who loved her and would put her above anything else. I was able to interact with them as a pair–to see how that dynamic worked when a new person steps in (me). And, most importantly, I was able to test myself to see if I was capable of being that new, strange person. I was able to see how I would act as I spent time with two people who already shared so many memories together… old memories that I would never be a part of. And let me tell you, that part is hard.
I need to tell you, that while it is SO worth it to date the single dad (or mom!), it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. It is hard to be the “outsider” in a relationship between a parent and their child. It is hard to know that no matter how much you fall in love with them both, there will be memories that you won’t be a part of. You can’t “play” mom–that role is already filled. They don’t need you to be that. They need you, to be YOU. To fill-in a new role, one that they haven’t had. He needs you to fill in the hole that has been missing: the hole that was hurt by a marriage that fell apart. The hole that required him to play both mom and dad at his house while balancing work life. He needs you to just listen…to support, but not to engage or provoke any hard feelings. He wants that gone. He wants love, a second chance at it.
Dating is hard in general, and I am here to tell you that dating the single dad can be hard. It will be trying at times–it’s hard to balance a new relationship when you will always have to deal with an old one. But, I urge any of you who are like me and saw that cute boy from across the cookout and just couldn’t get him off your mind, to follow your instincts. To watch him as he interacts with his child. To watch him as he weighs every decision and puts his child and you first. Watch him, because I guarantee he will surprise you every day. He will continue to date you, fight for you, and love you every day because you helped to give him that second chance that he so worried he’d never get. You loved not only him, but his child as well. And that’s a very rare and special kind of love, my friend.