It happened. You didn’t think about it, and it happened. The person you’re crushing on happens to be a single parent.
This doesn’t mean that it is an automatic deal breaker, unless you don’t want or hate children, then by all means go away and leave them alone at least in a romantic sense.
But if you do want kids or at least don’t mind them, there raises the question of what happens now? Single parents do have special considerations all their own.
What are your boundaries, investments, and expectations?
Do you want to be involved with the children immediately, after a certain point, or never? Are you willing to be friendly or share your family with the other parent should that happen? Are the kid(s) going to be yours or are they just going to be little roommates?
These may seem like silly questions to ask but they are important questions. When it comes to anyone with children, especially children not of adult age yet, the key is to not start something you cannot finish. Again, if you don’t want kids or do not want to be a parental figure, then you need to leave the single parent alone. Parents are package deals. You can’t just change the wrapping and expect the contents to magically change too. If you don’t clearly establish what you want before you initiate a relationship, then you’re not going to be compatible and it can hurt more than just the two of you.
What is the relationship between the family and the other parent?
When you get involved with a single parent, you’re adopting the kids as well as the other parent regardless if you like it or not. Even in the case of an absent parent you still have the baggage and the issues that come with parental abandonment and that takes a long time to acclimate to. The age of the children are very important with this. A six month old isn’t going to be as invested in having a replacement parent as what a sixteen year old may have.
If the other parent is really involved and active with the kid(s) then that means you will have to build a relationship with them eventually even if it is just practical civility. If you cannot handle that or don’t want to share with someone else, then you need to say thanks but no thanks to the crush and move on.
Are you ready to be a parent?
If the answer is no, turn around, walk away, have a nice day.
Look, if you’re not ready to at least try and love their kid(s) you cannot really love the single parent. A parent has obligations and responsibilities that a single person doesn’t. They can’t just drop money on something or go off on a vacation at a whim unless their gifted as wealthy. They have to keep up with doctor’s appointments, school assignments, custody transfers and everything else that may come in the way of what you want to do or what you’re capable of. A good parent will fulfill that responsibility before being a partner.
Now notice I didn’t say they should always choose their child(ren) over you. On the contrary, sometimes fulfilling their responsibility to their children can mean that they stand up for their right to be an adult and have an adult source of happiness separate of their child(ren): you. But if they’re blowing off their kid’s dance recital because they rather go to a party with you, don’t believe for a second that a decision like that won’t come back and bite you and your relationship on the butt.
How is the person you are crushing on dealing with being a single parent?
Are they always stressed trying to make bills or deadlines? Are they always complaining about baby-drama? Do they have a good support structure around them already or are you all they got?
If they are not capable and content with their role, you need to wait and watch before you throw your bid in. Being a parent is incredibly stressful even in the best of situations. You throw in legal matters, financial issues, or hateful family and that person doesn’t need a relationship, they need a friend. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be their friend and allow that friendship to naturally progress, but trying to start a relationship out of a tumultuous time is a horrible foundation.
If their becoming a single parent came from less than ideal circumstances like death, abandonment, or rape, then that person may need a lot of time to process their feelings and regain their identity and adapt to their new responsibilities. They deserve their moment to heal at their pace. And your chances with them will be much greater if you wait for that process to stabilize.
Will your family and friends support your decision if you start dating?
I’m not saying you should be paranoid before beginning a relationship, nor do I expect you to know everything. But knowing if your mother is going to turn into an impossible nag or your best friend will be pissed that playdates will be in your future is important so you can have a plan to deal with it. Are you going to wait until the relationship is serious to tell people? Are you going to be strong enough to stand up to their criticism? Will holidays or family gatherings turn into an ordeal? A responsible single parent will offer you their expectations and issues from the beginning for your consideration, you should be able to do the same. Again, being a single parent is hard enough without Christmas turning into a bitchfest because the partner’s child was ignored in favor of all the “real” grandkids.
This doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker for you two, but again, knowing where the mines are keeps you from blowing off your leg before you make it to the finish line.
Single parents often get a lot of negative social perceptions. They are trying to do the role of at least two people in one body. Some single parents are complete deadbeats and those should be avoided like the plague. But for the quality one that has caught your eye, just do a little extra soul searching before you approach them. Make sure that you’re ready for that kind of investment because it is tough, but the returns can be awesome. As I said, single parents are a package deal. And who doesn’t love a bonus feature?