Children Before Marriage
I had never thought about the implications of having children before marriage when I was in my early twenties. I was always in denial about it so it never seems like something that could affect me. Another reason may have been my belief that I would never get married. I am sure some of you have seen the social media posts out there; no kids, no drama, etc. I always looked at them and laughed because I felt it was a foolish thing to do. I felt this way until it was my turn. If you've read my post My First Go At Fatherhood, you might already know part of the reason why I decided to examine the dilemma of having children before marriage. If you have not already read it, please go back and do so. I had gotten to a point where I knew I wanted something serious with this individual and if this was the case, I needed to be completely honest with her.
Of course, I was afraid that she would just pack up and leave. This fear got me thinking, what would I do if I was in her place? Would I have been as open to the idea of dating a woman with a child if I did not have one myself or would I have been against the notion? Was it selfish for someone to walk away from such a situation? I'll be honest and say that I don't know how I would've reacted if the shoe was on the other foot. Apparently, I have no problem being with or marrying someone who's had children prior to our meeting, but I believe my choice is based on my life experience.
When you have children and meet someone who does not, it can be a tough topic to broach especially if the other person does not appear open to the idea of being with someone who has children. Here are a few things I've learnt after the fact that might be helpful to you, should you ever find yourself in such a situation:
- Pay close attention to the first few dates: most people tend to share their stance on this topic during the first three months of meeting them.
- Do not wait till things get serious: even if this new person ends up being fine with you having children, there will always be a stain on your relationship that you were not honest from the start.
- There is nothing worse than someone feeling like you robbed them of choice. Just because someone is okay with it doesn't mean they are the one: be very careful who you bring around your children, and if the other parent is involved in the child's life, this becomes even more important.
- If you already have particular sex, do not stress the fact that you want another child of the opposite sex. This is undue pressure on your new partner. It gets even worse if they don't want children.
- The same way you will want to know the person who your children will be around when they are with the other parent; is the same way the other parent would like to see who you have around their children.
- Baby Mama or Baby Daddy drama? First things first, stop using those descriptions for your child or children's other parent. You should respect them regardless of how they treat you. Oh, and yes, there will be some drama now and then. This is unavoidable even between a married couple with kids. The trick is knowing how to navigate it.
- Let the person you are with know that it is not a competition. I have witnessed couples who have gone their separate ways because the new partner thinks of the child or children as rivals. As the parent, you have to make them understand that loving and caring for your child should not be misconstrued as wanting to be with the other parent.
- Your children come first. Do all you can to make sure that you let the other person know and accept this. You and your partner need to agree on this.
- Most important of all, understand that this has to be teamwork. Try and come to some parenting agreement with the other parent and stick to it as much as you can. Be willing to compromise to gain something now and then.
I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic, or that co-parenting has been a breeze. It has not, and for the most part, I am responsible because I did not do some of the things I have pointed out in the beginning. However, I am working on heeding my advice. Hopefully, it all goes as smoothly as I think it will.