Romance was confounding even back in college, when every dude still had his hair and nobody had yet reproduced.
But now your world of available women includes moms—that is, the mother of other men’s children.
Dating has entered a new dimension, one with inscrutable small humans who control the damsels you want to save from distress.
Here’s what to do:
1. Get creative about sex
Your go/no-go window remains the third date, but the signals will be all new. You now have to schedule sex around a third-party: the tyke.
So, when she says her ex has him for the night, consider it excellent news. Note: This doesn’t mean sex will happen at her place. Your place not appealing? Get a maid. Better yet, get a room.
2. Make way for dimples
Let her tell you when you get to meet Potty Pants. My ex self-immolated when I joked about meeting his 6-year-old anytime before she was, say, old enough to drive. He slow-walked the intro since it reminded him his wife was never coming back and he was alone.
The timeline on real-life offspring will likely be age-dependent: Babies have no idea you exist. Teenagers can smell you from miles away. So follow Mom’s lead. And whether she calls you her BF or the plumber, just roll with it.
3. Let the tater be a hater
Show kindness and a semblance of liking kids—but don’t go overboard or kiss her munchkin’s ass. Talk to him as if he were your boss’s wife or a dental assistant. Ask questions. You’ll get one-word answers. That’s OK: You’re dating Mom, not moppet.
And if he really hates you, but she doesn’t dump you, be flattered: She wants to keep you around. The kid’s simply being territorial.
4. Stay neutral
You can’t parent her kids, so don’t try. Their fights aren’t your fights. If you stay together, you’ll be Not My Father for years. I treat my date’s offspring like feral, if adorable, animals—keeping my distance and letting them make the first move. Ask only that the menagerie be respectful, with no name-calling, biting, or mud-slinging catapults.
5. Meet the dad
Even with modern fertility science, all tadpoles come with some sort of father. Chances are there will be four parties in this relationship: you, her, her kid—and the Birth Father.
Adding him to the mix creates a new layer of complexity—with no easy wins. Once you’re knee-deep in intimacy with her, ask for an intro. Then use pickups and drop-offs as casual getting-to-know opps or to diffuse any drama.
6. Understand where you stand
With rugrats in the picture, there’s zero chance you’ll ever be the top person in this woman’s life—but that window of narcissism was short-lived anyway (if it existed at all).
So take the long view: Dating a mom means you get to be with someone with a proven capacity for selflessness. Give it a gamble: nothing risqué, nothing gained.