Houzz Logo Print

Expectations for dating a man with kids- when is it too much?

6 years ago

Hello all, this is my first time posting so please bare with me.

I am an independent woman in my early 30s and I have worked very hard to get to where I am at in my life (good career, house, ability to travel, etc.). I have been in a relationship with my wonderful, caring, sweet and compassionate SO for just under 2 years. I love him dearly and he makes me feel very appreciated and loved every day. I have no children of my own, and this is the first time I have dated a man with children. I have found it to be an extremely challenging and steep learning curve given my lack of experience and all of the complicating factors that come with a divorce with kids.

My SO has two children which stay with him every weekend: a daughter who is 13 and an 7 year old son. I met them about six months into our relationship. They are good kids and I do like them and I believe they like me. However, much of the time I still feel like a fourth wheel. The three of them have so much history and so many common interests that I feel excluded from many conversation topics. The daughter typically poses a question by prefacing it with “Dad, _______?”, and doesn’t often talk directly at me and very rarely incorporates me into their conversations. She is shy, so I understand that’s likely the reason, but it still acts as a reminder that I am not really a member of their inner circle. Both kids are quite introverted, so it’s hard to carry on conversations with them, and I get very limited answers when I try and ask them about their day to day... I wish I knew how to engage them more so they would open up to me. I know this is not anything personal, however it makes it hard to form a deeper bond with them.

As someone that is not a parent, I am also (over) sensitive to things that make me feel like I am not valued and appreciated, such as the kids not saying “please/thank you” when I do something for them, no birthday/Christmas cards, not saying goodbye to me, saying comments like their mom’s cooking is better than mine or telling me “you’re not my mom” if I ask them to do something (etc.). I realize they are kids and that kids say and do things without realizing that they can hurt other people’s feelings and they probably don’t mean anything by it... but the more these instances happen over time, they begin to add up and weigh me down. I don’t know how to just brush them off. How do I develop a thicker skin?? My SO is supportive if I let him know that a situation has hurt my feelings, and if the situation warrants he talks to his child(ren) about it and corrects the child’s behaviour. However, he can also be very oblivious to when a situation requires action on his part. Another thing I struggle with is that the kids have no set chores to do at my SO’s home. This is hard for me when I go over there and my SO and I cook them dinner and then clean it all up and the kids don’t have to lift a finger. I have told my SO that this needs to change before we ever move in together as I will not live in a house where I am put in a position to clean up after his kids because they don’t have any chores. I am a firm believer they need to contribute to the household so they will grow up to be responsible and respectful adults that can take care of themselves. However, not much has changed on this front after having the conversation numerous times. My SO believes that the best time to implement chores and house rules is when we all move in together. I don’t agree and worry this will result in the kids potentially blaming me for their newfound responsibilities.

Additionally, we are dealing with a BM who is very unresponsive to my SO, so making joint decisions about anything regarding the kids is usually very difficult. And since my SO doesn’t want to rock the boat (he doesn’t like confronting people and specifically doesn’t want her to just shut down the lines of communication) he tends to let her walk all over him. There is no consistency between households and we have no clue what goes on over there, just bits and pieces from the kids, which can be somewhat alarming at times (eg. what they are eating, that they didn’t leave the house all week during summer vacation, playing video games all day long, etc.). BM is also a full time student so she is making very little income, and will continue to do so over the next several years as school is now going to take five years instead of the original two. I am glad she is trying to better herself, but her busy schedule and lack of funds has a direct impact on the children and their quality of life.

We also have the challenge of money. Given my SO’s paychecks go to child support and rent and food, there is very (very) little left over for retirement savings or other short term savings. If we are going to move in together, I will have to be the one to either undertake an expensive renovation to my existing house, or spend a small fortune buying a larger house that will be more difficult for me to afford month to month. After talks with my financial planner, he suggested if my SO, the kids and I were to move in together, my SO’s contribution to the rent should instead be put towards retirement and I will need to cover the main living costs. Otherwise, I am looking at an insufficient amount of money for us to both retire comfortably. For someone that has worked hard to be financially responsible, this is a tough pill to swallow. It means a change in my current lifestyle... not having the ability to spend as much on travel or other non essential things that make life more enjoyable.

My SO does not have a car or a license as it was never something he could afford to do. This has somewhat put me in a position to become the chauffeur. I have been asking my SO to obtain his driver’s license for many months now, and although he has put aside some time to take lessons, he has not been able to find enough time to get it done. I realize he is very busy as a single dad on the weekends while working full time during the week. However, I am getting very frustrated and resentful over being the one that always drives us and his kids around. Now there is the expectation that if I am joining them, I will be driving and they will not have to walk or take the bus. I am also needed to drive the kids to some of their extra curricular activities.

I have been particularly overwhelmed with my relationship the last several months. I have hit the point where I am feeling quite unappreciated by the kids (even though I know they like me) and generally burnt out. I wish I could continue to give selflessly, but I just don’t know if I have it in me to do so. I don’t want to ever make the kids feel like they are a burden to me because I know it is not their fault I am in this situation. But it’s just so hard to not have feelings of resentment to everyone involved (kids, SO, BM) when things are so complicated and stressful. By reading the posts in this forum I realize I am not alone. I don’t want to give up on my relationship, but I have now hit a point where I am seriously questioning if this is what I want for my life. I love my SO and want to be with him, but I don’t know how to accept things the way they are and move forward. I would really appreciate any advice on ways to do this. I would also like to know if I am being an unreasonable person. I feel like I have lost any perspective and I am in dire need of some help in seeing things clearly. My family and friends can lend an ear, but none of them have been in this situation so it’s hard for them to fully understand and give advice. Thank you for reading this very long post.

Comments (12)

WellCraft Kitchen and Bath
Average rating: 5 out of 5 stars61 Reviews
Virginia’s Full Service Design-Build Remodeling Company