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As a single father my life is pretty complicated. The fact that I am single means that I have some kind of baggage. My wife passing away and having full custody makes my experience a little more unique than others. However, whether it’s divorce, a breakup, one night stand “accident,” or whatever… the thought process is the same. As my friends and I are close to or on the other side of thirty (which I think is awesome), more and more of my woman constituents are dating a single dad. As the single dad who always has a crazy and dramatic dating/relationship story I wind up informing them how said guy is seeing them.

Most conversations I have wind up involving security and expectations.

I’ll first start with security.

As a single father my time is extremely limited. I don’t have the energy for a social life. My friends know that they’ll see me on birthdays and the occasional guys night out when it’s mandatory we all leave wives, girlfriends, and kids at home. I surprised the girl I was dating by making it out to celebrate her birthday on a Wednesday night (huge deal). Her sister asked me “Where do you hang out?” I responded with “I’m a single parent, I don’t hang out.” That’s the truth. I generally have one night a month sans my daughter. If I’m seeing someone, they’re who I’d like to spend it with. Everything and everyone else can wait.

Why? Because this is the one thing in my life that’s just for me.

I work all day to pay bills, feed my child, pay for daycare, buy Cydney clothes, and if I have an extra dollar put away some kind of savings for her. Like I said, my life is complicated, so I’m looking for this to be the one thing that isn’t. If I’m stressed out I don’t want to talk about my problems. Not because I’m doing what is often perceived as bottling up my feelings; I’m here for the outlet. If there are somewhere between 28-31 days in a month I need at least a few hours to have no filter and fulfill the part of my identity that isn’t tied to providing and responsibility. Whether a father has full custody or just sees their children on the weekend, the free time is limited. In our mind and hearts you’re first; but we can’t just get up and do things whenever we’d like to. There has to be planning involved.

The other part of security is that if the woman in my life has a relationship with my child that accelerates things.

Men are planners and long-term thinkers by nature, so we’re almost always thinking commitment first. Understand that having a relationship with my little one is something very special. My past, emotional baggage, and even my sex life can talk to you. In my circumstance, having someone around my daughter means much more. She doesn’t have a mother. Because of this I take very seriously those that I allow to have access to her. Everyone has their own experiences and to each person cause a different kind of trauma. If you can provide me, or whatever man the security of knowing that you’ll be there when they need you; they’ll be yours.

Second are expectations.

Men get hurt just as much as women do. However, we’re less inclined to let that stifle us from trying again. Because of this we often don’t walk into relationships with expectations. As a parent we really get the idea that things don’t turn out as we’d plan them to.

A female friend of mines once gave me a great analogy about comparing the difference between men and women with regards to dating and expectations. She compared it to shoe shopping. A man will take about five minutes to buy a pair of shoes or two. All we’ll need is comfort… and sometimes style. Can they be worn to work? Can I wear them out? Are they comfortable? That’s all I expect from them.

My friend then said that a woman shops completely different. They need 3-5 pairs of shoes every season, every year. Something to wear with dresses, a day-to-night shoe, city flats, exercise sneakers, something on trend, etc. It doesn’t matter if they’re comfortable. “We will get a pink pair of shoes that we can only wear once,” she said.

Things get really different when it comes to expectations. My friend said “We can have the perfect thing. As soon as there is one off thing… All the flags are raised and it’s like I knew it wasn’t going to work.” Especially as a single father, I don’t think this way at all. Because children are balls of unpredictability, I am more inclined to expect things to go horribly wrong and prepare for that. Taking it back to shoes, they could not match, not be as comfortable as I thought, may not be “corporate,” leather cracks, or whatever. I’m still going to wear the hell out of them because I knew this would happen.

For the non-parents who are dating someone with children: a single father is expecting you to not get it.

No matter how hard one can try, they just won’t understand how much goes into or the mindset of a parent until they become one. There’s a learning curve. We’ll be incredibly patient. Depending on how much we like you we’ll be lenient about how long it takes for you to get it. Why is that really important? Because like I said earlier this is what we’re looking for.

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