"I think sometimes the women I dated didn't realize that single dads still have parenting obligations that, for me, came first," said Ruyter, now 36, who maintains the blog "Memoirs of a Single Dad" (memoirsofasingledad.com) and recently self-published the book "Memoirs of a Dating Dad." Changing landscape As fathers grow more engaged in child rearing, and courts more willing to grant them custody, single dads increasingly are dating with kids in tow — in heart if not in hand.
Some 2.8 million single dads live with their kids, up 27 percent from 10 years ago and nearly double the number in 1990, according to Matthew Weinshenker, assistant sociology professor at Fordham University, who analyzed 2010 census data.
(The number likely includes many joint custody arrangements.) While single dads face many of the same dating challenges as single moms, there are some differences: In a survey of 100 single fathers, the vast majority preferred to date women with children, thinking she would be more selfless and understanding of his commitment as a father, said Ellie Slott Fisher, who conducted the survey as research for her book "Dating for Dads: The Single Father's Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly" (Bantam).
Single moms, in contrast, preferred dating men without kids to reduce complications.
Leave the sneaking around to teens, she said, and don't have a girlfriend sleep over while your kids are over, particularly when the relationship is casual and short-term.
Single fathers have a tendency, more than single moms, to "feel incomplete" without a partner in the house, so they risk rushing into a new relationship that may not be right, said single dad Armin Brott, author of several books on fatherhood including "The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting Without a Partner" (Abbeville).
It means not underestimating your kids' intelligence when you try to pull off sleepovers on the sly."Every kid I interviewed, at least those 10 and older, told me a story about how their dad had this person stay over and they were supposed to believe she was sleeping in a separate room," Fisher said.As a single dad wading back into the dating pool, Daniel Ruyter was surprised how many women lost interest when he revealed, always in the first conversation, that he had a son."At first I took it personally," said the Orlando, Fla., information technology analyst, who was 32 when he divorced and got joint custody of his then 5-year-old son.
That means telling a date immediately, alongside name and occupation, that you have children, and gauging early whether she respects how much time you spend with them, Fisher said.
It means only introducing your children to girlfriends when you're confident that your relationship is on its way to long-term or permanent status — and, if you're cordial, giving your ex a heads-up.