Tonight, I found an interesting phrase that led to my blog, “dating divorced dad with grown kids”. I had some things I could have blogged about, but this jumped off the screen at me. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I was 19 when my parents separated, 20 when they divorced. While that barely makes me an “adult child of divorce” at the time, I was an adult then and still am (or so they tell me).
While not getting into too many details of my father’s dating life (you’re welcome, dad), let me give you two ends of the spectrum, from my own memory. How these relationships were in reality may be different but kids’ perception is what it is.
First, there was a warm summer night when my ex-husband and I showed up at dad’s house. Shortly after that, my younger brother popped in, both unannounced. Dad was dating a woman at the time, and she had made dinner for them. Dad being dad, he wasn’t about to ask us kids to leave. This was when he drove truck and he valued his time with us, even after we were grown or not living with him.
For a while, we all made nice on the deck. If I remember correctly, we were all talking about life in general and playing cards. We noticed that the girlfriend was not happy that we were there. Dad came walking around the side of the house and said that she had gone home.
In general, she was a great woman. She and dad were friends before they dated and I liked her. As a partner for my father, she forgot one important thing. He is a father. Yes, I was married (or engaged, I can’t remember) and my brothers lived with our mom, but he is our dad. The fact that he didn’t ask us to leave so they could spend time together didn’t sit well with her.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was a woman dad was dating who invited us to her home and the first time I met her I learned how to make peanut brittle, caramels, and other Christmas goodies. Maybe it helped that she had kids, I don’t know.
I met her a few times here and there but didn’t know her that well when my first marriage went to hell. One morning, my ex-mother-in-law drove me to my dad’s house because I couldn’t look at my ex. I was a complete mess. I remember crying, dad consoling me, sleeping in dad’s recliner, and basically being a lump for the day. Not only did she not seem upset that I crashed their weekend together, she was there to comfort me and be a female I could talk to if I needed.
Luckily, the second woman is now our “other mother”. I have none of the bitter feelings that many have towards their step-parents when talking about her. I firmly believe that is because of the fact that she was respectful of my dad’s role as a father and tried to get to know us as people rather than as “Jim’s kids”.
I’ve never dated a man with grown kids, but speaking as an “adult child of divorce”, there is a fine line to walk if you decide to date a man with grown children.
We don’t want a replacement mom. Even when our moms are goofy and piss us off, we have them. That’s not to say you can’t be another mother-figure. Feel out the kids over time and be there for them at whatever level they are comfortable with. Someday, if you marry the dad, you may become “dad’s wife”, “our step-mom”, or “another mother”. As long as you are respectful of dad’s relationship with the kids and the kids’ relationship with their mother, you should be safe from becoming “that evil bitch dad married”.