I think it’s a fair assessment to say the stigma of single motherhood as far as the dating pool goes has decreased drastically. More men seem to be open to the idea – especially since we’re seeing more single fathers. But if you’ve never dated someone with children you probably have no idea what you’re getting in to – and you should, because kids are kind of a big deal what with them being tiny human beings with delicate little brains and all.
So here’s a heads up that will, with any luck, enable you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you’re equipped to handle it.
1. No one is more important than the kids.
This should be a no-brainer, but when you’ve exclusively dated the childless, you get accustomed to being numero uno in your partner’s life. And it’s not like you have kids, so you don’t really know what it’s like to be in a relationship where there is a mutual understanding that the kids have top billing in this show. But it’s true. Don’t take it personally. Or go right the fuck ahead and take it personally – there are other fish in the sea.
2. There are “kid snacks” in the house, and you don’t fucking touch them.
This isn’t a college dorm, where a box of cookies is fair game. No, bitch. Those go in lunch bags and are used as negotiation tools to persuade the little bastards to leave the room for ten minutes so you can finish this week’s episode of The Wire. If it’s a food item advertised on Nickelodeon, you better grab a fucking apple and hit the bricks, son. (The one exception is if there is a disproportionate amount of goodies to children. Three bottles of apple juice, two kids? Well, you have to drink the third one. That’s just family politics.)
3. Shit gets loud.
If someone is a normal parent and not a goddamn Nazi, they don’t subscribe to the belief that children should be seen and not heard. Kids are going to run, jump, shout, sing, yell at each other, cry, bitch, moan, nag, laugh, and be generally obnoxious – but it’s all in good fun (usually). Even if you’re inside and they’re outside in the yard, they’re going to come in the house every five minutes with a question, a request, a complaint, or to get something that they absolutely need right this very minute. They will accidentally slam doors, drop things, fall down, and cry dramatically to get their sibling in more trouble than they deserve. Parenting is a constant struggle between getting them to the shut the fuck up and letting them be kids. Get some earplugs, some patience, and remember how sweet they are when they laugh.
4. Shit gets messy.
The reality is that the house is not going to look like a magazine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shit happens, and it’s happening constantly. And sometimes it’s not even the kids. My girls clean their rooms every day, and are responsible for putting their toys away. But there are days where I’ve worked nine hours, driven home in shitty traffic, stopped to grab groceries, came home, made dinner, given them a bath, and gotten them in pajamas and in to bed at 9:15, do you actually think I’m going to vacuum the floor right now? Do you think I give a shit about the toothpaste smiley face they drew on the bathroom mirror at this very second? Fuck off or clean it yourself.
5. Sometimes we’re boring.
I’m not old, you guys. I’m 29 for Chrissakes. But my idea of fun has changed dramatically, and even men my age without kids don’t understand why I think spending the day at the river having a picnic and walking along the shore is a great time – especially since there’s no liquor involved.
I’m not saying I don’t still enjoy the occasional party, that I don’t go to the occasional bar, that I don’t stay out until two having dinner and drinks with friends. But those times are few and far between, and I like it that way. I like that my weekends are spent at parks or science museums or taking road trips up to the Redwoods. And I cherish those weekends that are spent doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing at all.
6. Sometimes we’re tired.
Don’t get insulted if we don’t want to stay awake after to kids go to bed and watch a movie. We aren’t avoiding you. We are fucking exhausted. Wake us up in an hour. Maybe then we’ll be rested enough for sexy time.
7. We don’t need you to play mommy/daddy.
In situations where the other parent is an active, positive role in the kid’s life, we do not, in any way, expect, require, or even want you to step in. Don’t spank my kid. Don’t ask my kid to call you daddy. Work out with the person you’re dating where the line for discipline needs to be drawn so you are both perfectly clear as to what that entails. Obviously, you should be someone the kid can depend on, who can fix boo-boos and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But if you want a kid…make your own.
8. Domestication isn’t so bad.
It’s kind of cool, having clean laundry all folded and put away huh? Clean dishes? House smells nice? Holy shit, are these linen napkins?!
There’s a whole new level of adult-type-shit that goes along with having kids. It’s the difference between having color-safe bleach and fabric softener and, well, not having those things. It’s having every size and shape of bandage in an organized First Aid kit. It’s always having a pen, always having snacks in your glove compartment, having dinner at 6PM every night at an actual table. It’s a porch light always being left on for you. It’s coming home from a night out to someone who fell asleep watching Investigation Discovery on the couch so they could kiss you hello, no matter how late it is. There’s a sort of comforting normalcy that goes along with the hectic-yet-structured schedule of having kids.
9. You will never be on time for anything again, ever.
We try, dude, I swear to god we do, but all it takes is one lost shoe, one broken toy, one stumble down the steps, one little asshole kid who refuses to turn the fuck around in his carseat because he’s mad at you for not letting him have another popsicle. Then BAM the whole fucking trip is set back half an hour. We even attempt to build time in for these little snafus – how many parents have said “I’ll say I’ll be there at 4:30, even though I should be able to make it by 4:00, that way I’m covered”? Except what happens? There’s a fucking gas leak and your garage explodes and oh shit, you just ran over your neighbor’s cat OH FUCK YOU FORGOT TO GET THE KIDS IN THE CAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.
But I swear, we try.
10. There will be times that we are lazy parents, and we don’t give a shit what you think.
Wouldn’t we all love to say we never let our kid watch cartoons, eat candy, or talk back? That’s the fuckin’ dream, isn’t it?
Yeah, well, that doesn’t happen.
Sometimes a Dora marathon is the only way I can clean and reorganize the closet, or finish a chapter I’m writing. Sometimes a lollipop is the only way I can get them to shut up so I can have an uninterrupted conversation with my banker. Sometimes my kid will get smart with me and I will get so pissed off that I literally cannot speak, because the only words I can think to say are “go fuck yourself, you little shit.”
We love our kids, don’t we? We love them madly. But sometimes cutting them a break means cutting ourselves a break, and if you want to get all judgey for that, well…just wait until it’s your turn.