Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dating a father

In honor of Father's Day, I'm finally getting around to a question that Zandria posed a month or so ago: would you date someone who has a kid? Her answer is 'probably not', and I think that might have been my answer as well when I was in my 20's. As I got older, my view started to change. It's partly that I think how a man approaches his responsibilities as a father can tell you a lot about him as a person (and potential partner). But it's also that as I became more and more sure that I don't want kids of my own, the idea of dating someone with kids actually became more appealing. That might sound odd but the way I see it, dating someone who already has kids means a) it's less likely to be a big deal that I don't want kids myself and b) I get some of the perks of having kids around without any of the responsibility. Still, if you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that, all else equal, I'd probably prefer to date someone without kids because it just seems like kids make things more complicated.

Well, now I'm dating someone who has joint custody of his 15-year-old daughter, meaning that she lives with him half the week (the mother lives across town and they are very good friends). I have to admit, when we first met, this freaked me out for numerous reasons. A teenager? Half the week when I basically don't get to see him (and that includes Friday and Saturday nights)? An ex who not only is very much around but who is a good friend and whose extended family is basically HIS family? Let's just say that this has not been the smoothest ride. But he's an amazing father and to me, his dedication to his daughter speaks volumes about him. It's also reflected in the fact that his daughter is a really great kid so there's been no drama - as far as I can tell, she's completely secure in her dad's love for her so I think she knows there's no reason to resent me. I haven't met the ex-wife yet but we've had many conversations about her and he's always so honest and upfront about their relationship that I'm feeling OK about that too.

But the main point I wanted to make is that, as someone who had a pretty full life before I met this guy, I've found that dating a dad (at least one who has joint custody) has one huge benefit that I never considered before: I get a lot of space. As one of my friends put it, it's kind of like having a long-distance relationship without the expense of plane tickets! It's not that I never see him during the time he has his daughter, but I'm definitely not spending 24-7 with him. I realize that for a lot of women, this would be a cost but for me, it's definitely a benefit. The thing is, I know that if a guy actually wanted to spend 24-7 with me, I'd probably be turned off by that; at the same time, if a guy didn't want to spend 24-7 with me, I would probably feel insecure and rejected (hey, I have never said I'm not neurotic!). But with this relationship, I get to feel like he wants to spend more time with me but can't, for reasons that have nothing to do with how he feels about me, so I get the space I need without feeling insecure about it (admittedly, it also helps that he is awesome about checking in with me on the days that I don't see him).

What I find particularly interesting is that if it were up to me, I'd spend more time with him than I currently do even though I know that would be bad for me in the long run. In past relationships, I've tended to 'lose myself' a bit; in this relationship, I'm basically forced not to, and I'm glad. I wish I could say I was strong enough not to need the forcing, that even if he were available, I would make sure to carve out time for myself and to maintain all my other important friendships, but I'm honestly not sure what I would do. So it will be interesting to see what happens as his daughter grows up - she is starting to be more independent (she'll have her driver's license by the end of the year) and he'll have more time to spend with me. Hopefully, I'll be smart enough not to lose this balance...