kids, Parenting

Take a Chance: Date the Single Dad

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.

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Parenting

Married, but dating.

“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.” – Anthony Robbins

At my bridal shower, my bridesmaids had each guest write words of advice for me as I dove into married life. I will forever remember reading one, “ find time for just the two of you– make it a priority to still have date night.” I remember thinking, “Well duh! Of course we will still go out on date night!”

When my husband and I were dating, we made it a priority to not get in a “routine” of what our date nights looked like and would call eachother out on it when they began to get “too routine”. (Yes, going out to dinner is nice, but maybe we should take a break from Chili’s or Applebee’s and find something different! ) My husband was great at romantic surprises: picnic lunches at the local winery, showing up at my house with wine and flowers, cooking and planning a game night in together,  or planning a great dinner out at a restaurant we both had never tried. Knowing how we had dated and kept our relationship exciting with special things like this, I never feared that we would have an issue with it once we were married. I never thought twice about the wise words from a dear friend of mine.

Then, we had Kellen. Our  baby boy. And now, I understand my friend’s wise words. I’m tired. I’m worn out from the daily grind of parenthood. We’re on a tight budget with less money flowing in. Instead of planning fun date nights, I look forward to cozying up in my sweatpants, turning on Netflix, and scrolling through my Facebook feed. Why? Money. Time. But really, the fear of leaving our sweet boy with someone other than me or my husband. (Yes, I know I need to cut the cord and leave him sometime!)

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But that’s where my husband reigns. He is the king of still finding ways to date, though married. He is able to “keeping dating” by making me  feel special; by taking the time to build up our marriage each day. You see what he discovered is that dating your wife or husband doesn’t have to be huge or costly; it just takes time. Time to remember what they enjoy, what makes them tick, and what makes them feel special. Time away from the piles of laundry, vacuuming that needs done, or the newest post on Facebook;  traded in for time together and thoughtful gestures. While he has managed to do this throughout our marriage each month through notes in my lunches at work, surprise weekend plans, or just an encouraging morning text message, he seems to be outdoing himself in the dating field this holiday season.

This December, I turn 30. And through the stresses of being a new, first-time mommy, facing the reality that I will have to leave my son soon and return to work, my husband has stepped up his dating game with a 30 day countdown of special gestures, gifts, and surprises to my 30th birthday. Each day, I’ll update on what surprise gesture I received–not to brag (though he is AMAZING!), but in hopes that it may encourage you to find ways to continue to “date” your husband or wife.To take time for each other and set the stress of work, parenting, and life aside for just a few hours to focus on your marriage.

30 Days of Sweet Ideas from my Husband that you could steal:

  1. iMovie made with pictures of me as a baby through now!
  2. Family Date: Making Puppy Chow; idea from a “how to” video I made as a child.
  3. Sushi Date night–my favorite!
  4. Starbucks cup and giftcard–much needed for this tired new mom!
  5.  “Treasure Hunt” for our daughter and me with a matching necklace set at the end for the two of us.
  6. Stuffed animals of my favorite pets as a child–fun memory and stuffed animals for the kids!
  7. Day date trip to where I used to live before we got married–dinner at our first restaurant we ate at together there!
  8. Lunch date at Kentucky Fried Chicken after church– to correlate with a fun story for my childhood when my speech made “kentucky” sound like a curse word!
  9.  Gingerbread house building for a fun family night activity!
  10. “Exhausted Mom” ticket–good for a child free hour of relaxation with candles, music, and a nice bath!
  11.  Family Baking Night– making a reindeer food, a holiday tradition!
  12. Tis the Season…trip to shop and give back to others as a family. We bought gifts for two kids from our local “Angel Tree” for Christmas, a fun memory from when I was a child and my sister and I did this together one year!
  13. Girls’ Spa Afternoon- surprise nail salon trip for me and our daughter !
  14. “Goodwill Hunting”- trip to Goodwill together to buy “costumes” to dress-up as  two of our favorite country music artists, then we went out for lunch like them for a fun date!
  15. Ice-Skating- This is a fun tradition we started together last year! He even arranged for my mother-in-law to meet us there to watch our son!

What do you and your significant other do for date nights? Do you balance life and dating each other well? I’d love to hear ideas from you below!