Should I date my baby daddy?
December 28, 2011 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Should I date my son's father, when we never really did way back when we were busy procreatin'?

Here's the backstory, folks. There's a lot of issue up in here, so prepare yourself.

About 8 years ago I entered into a relationship with my boss. It was forbidden, due to our non-fraternization policy, so we kept it secret and after a couple months I left my job – this was his career and back then, food service jobs were one in a million so I felt it was the right thing to do. We stayed together until he moved to another state to take a promotion. He invited me to move with him but I declined. In all honesty, our relationship was pretty much grounded in sex and while it was only a ew short months long, I don't feel like we really got to know each other at all. The long distance between us made it hard to, ahem...maintain the basis of our relationship so we split.

Flash forward. I'm pregnant. I rearrange my life, move back to my sad hometown, get along fine and have a wonderful little boy. When he was made aware of the pregnancy he stated his desire again and again to “do the right thing”, to be involved though I didn't ask it. When our son was born he sort of disappeared. Granted, this is an option I gave him and honestly, I don't hold it against him...too much. If he was not prepared to raise a child then I feel like he did the right thing by staying away. Our son was young and has a very strong relationship with my father and brother, so I felt like my son was covered in that department. It should be mentioned that my son's father always provided insurance and paid child support in those early years. Basically, he did what the state required and nothing more. During this time we did not speak – I never called and hounded him to visit and I made decisions about our son's welfare on my own (something our court agreement states I can do).

When our son was 3.5, he suffered a short term but life threatening illness. I'm assuming that my son's father got wind of the hefty claims made against the insurance he carried and at that point, he called expressing his desire to see our son. I invited him down, my family was more than polite, and he and our son began a relationship I can only call surreal. Our son had no qualms about letting this man into his life as dad and frankly, I'm very proud of their bond.

And now our son is seven. After that first visit a few years ago, my son's father made clear that he was in love with me and felt like we should give it a try. Needless to say, I was not receptive. Here was a man whose character I seriously questioned, considering that he had no interest in his own offspring for so many years. Again, I appreciate his honesty with himself and me in saying that he was not ready to parent but that obviously means that we are just different people with different values, yes? Aside from that, what happens should mom and dad break up? How does one even begin to navigate such an odd relationship without messing up their mutual child?

We both moved on. I've dated seriously, as has he. He has done some things I consider parenting errors but they were minor, and frankly, my life revolves around doing nothing but the very best for our child so I'm a stickler and can be hard to please. But one of the reasons I left my most recent relationship is because he and the what-ifs are always a nagging presence.

So these are the things I'm hoping the dear MeFites here can help me sort through. They are not related solely to the backstory I've posted here but they are still some things I like some perspective on, if anyone has any to offer...

1. I should ignore these feelings, yes? The potential to screw our kid up by entering into a relationship with his father is far too great, right?

2. Because when it comes to our son, I always get my way, and thus I think he genuinely believes I dislike him greatly. This is not true. Is it my job to rectify this?

3. Anytime I bring up a parenting issue, he is automatically defensive. He believes I'm a great mother, tells me so often, but I get the feeling he truly feels like I feel he's not as good a parent as I. Should I make an effort to correct this feeling on his part or is that his own issue to deal with?

4. Would it be weird (and potentially offensive and unfair to his girlfriend) to request that we sit down and hash out all these old feelings of anger and resentment on my part or should I just work on letting it go and move on, since I don't let those things affect the care of our child?

5. On that same note, would it be wrong to request that now, because our son is getting older, we make an effort to really get to know each other? Again, we dated a very short time but he is obviously a part of our lives now and I feel like most of the time, I don't know this person.

6. The last issue relates to myself and I'd like advice. I find myself making flirtacious comments to this man. He is good looking, kind in person, thoughtful, and very stable. He is responsible. When we are together, we both cannot seem to stop making comments, referring to our short relationship, or otherwise coming on to each other. I assume that this is probably not mature or good. Am I wrong in assuming that? I find myself wanting to ruin his current relationship (of this, I am NOT at all proud and I don't even like typing that sentence). I find that I do my best to keep him hanging on even though I've stated a relationship is not possible given the situation. His girlfriend, while she seems incredibly nice, does have some things in her past that I don't like (a prior drug conviction, namely) and she certainly seems like an upstanding citizen and a great mother to her kids, but her calling my kid honey rubs me the entirely wrong way. How do I work on getting over such immature jealousy and just let them be happy, without my juvenile interference? Or is this my heart telling me that I genuinely do like this man?

A whirlwind of snowflakes, eh? Apparently my life is a fucking snow globe. Can you help, MeFites?
posted by youandiandaflame to Human Relations (21 answers total)
I find myself wanting to ruin his current relationship

He's in a relationship. So, no, you shouldn't date him.

All (considerable) drama aside, you should not pursue anything while he is in a relationship, regardless of your opinion of his current SO and regardless of your feelings for him.

You're not going to be able to effectively co-parent with him if you're busy getting territorial with his girlfriend. You and he and she need to be able to communicate honestly and in good faith to act in the best interests of all the kids involved. Your flirting with him, feeling jealous of her, and generally not respecting their relationship is a bad approach to this situation.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:21 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

The guy is dating someone else (and raising kids with her?) while telling you that he loves you?

No. You do not want to date this person. And stop flirting with him, you're only making things worse.
posted by empath at 6:21 AM on December 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

Should I date my son's father, when we never really did way back when we were busy procreatin'?

Since he currently has a girlfriend, the answer is no. This answer covers everything except for 2 and 3. Work on bringing him more into the kid's life and decisions that effect, if you think it's the right thing to do.

Seriously, don't mess with relationship. Let it live or die on its own, otherwise you'll never be able to fully trust him down the road.

The guy is dating someone else (and raising kids with her?) while telling you that he loves you?

No, he is not, you read it wrong. He said and asked for a relationship. She said no and they both moved on and dated other people. SHE left her relationship partially because of the feelings and potential she has about HIM.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:25 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your question is not: "Should I date my father's son?" That's a tricky question that calls for a nuanced, considered answer. Your question is: "should I date this guy who is in a relationship with someone else?" The answer to that question is always no.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:26 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

She said no and they both moved on and dated other people

Oh, well, the point still stands that she shouldn't date someone who is in a relationship.
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on December 28, 2011

Doesn't sound like you were ever in love with him, and aren't now. Tell him so and let him be.

Sounds to me like he did a good deal more than "what was required" given that you basically told him to fuck off in the first place.
posted by spitbull at 6:33 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

It should be mentioned that my son's father always provided insurance and paid child support in those early years. Basically, he did what the state required and nothing more.

This doesn't really answer the heart of your question, but doing "what the state required" is a hell of a lot more than many dads do. And he did come along and have a "surreally" good relationship with your son.
posted by jayder at 6:36 AM on December 28, 2011

Best answer: It sounds to me like you've always been a little ambivalent about this guy, which is understandable. You've been concentrating on doing the right thing by your child, and you may have just pushed your own feelings and desires aside. Then the guy reappears and you are reminded that you may have had feelings for him at one point. But it sounds like the time for any relationship with him has passed. I think you should congratulate yourself for doing a good job of parenting in a tough situation and keep on as you have been.

I mean, yeah, you could talk to him about your feelings but it would be pretty much venting at this point. And so far he's been a really helpful ally in raising your kid; don't spoil that.
posted by BibiRose at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2011

Best answer: It sounds like you are a couple of humans who are doing a better than average job raising a son together in your own way. I'd say concentrate on that, it is more than enough to keep a positive relationship, with its own sort of shared love, for a long time. Maybe in ten years if you both find yourselves single you re-assess. For now you already have a clear focus in your life, and there are a lot of fish still in that sea.
posted by meinvt at 7:15 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't do this to your son. As attractive as the possibility of being a "whole" family is, there are so many red flags and pitfalls that it could be potentially disastrous and awful for him and you. You think he's young and he can't understand what's going on, but he does and I guarantee it is confusing as hell for him. My niece's father kind of fucked off after she was born (granted he didn't provide the kind of support you got), five or six years later he pops back up saying he wants to give the father thing another try. During this time (a matter of months), he and my sister decided that they were "back in love", although their original relationship wasn't that intense. They eventually got married, but divorced three months later because there were many good reasons it didn't work in the first place (including the abandonment of his child, but who's counting?). Now the guy has retreated again in the wake of the relationship meltdown. Guess who's left holding that bag of shit? My seven-year-old niece, whose parents were so selfish and reckless it makes me want to punch walls.

This guy has a girlfriend and other children besides your son in his life. Even if he leaves her for you, or if your flirting and rehashing drive her to leave him, is that actually what you want? Putting aside the fact that he's your son's father, is that the kind of guy you want to date? It's great that he is there for your son, but maybe just focus on co-parenting with him and leave the dating drama out of it, for everyone's sake. If you do decide to give it a try, after he's left his current relationship, please please don't tell your son that you are dating for as long as humanly possible. Until you're as sure about going forward as you've ever been about anything.

I'm sorry if I sound harsh; you sound like a really good mom and I think it's awesome that you're asking this. But I've seen this (see above) and experienced it (my own parents remarried when I was eight, but then divorced again--the crushing out of the hope and promise of their reunion was absolutely awful), and from the other side of it I really really wish they had just stayed friendly and civil.

But I've surely kept some therapists in business, so I guess it wasn't all bad.
posted by swingbraid at 7:37 AM on December 28, 2011

Response by poster: I probably shouldn't be commenting so early (or at all) but I'm going to take the advice given. I'll buck up and do my best to move on. He IS in a relationship, I did not end mine for his prodding but my own feelings, and that has nothing to do with him so it's not fair to drag him into that.

As to the other end of my question, is a sit down too much of me to ask, so that we can assess where we want to go as parents? We do co-parent extremely well but that's basically because he cows to me on every issue and I'm sure he's gotten the feeling that his input doesn't matter. I don't want that and don't think it's healthy.

I appreciate the comments thus far. The third party assessment of the situation put clearly into focus what I should have realized already.
posted by youandiandaflame at 7:41 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The welfare of your child, which is an eternal bond you both share, should be way more sacred a priority than the consideration you're showing for his relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he apparently does not have children.

You need to have a talk with him and tell him you're willing to give things a try, if you genuinely are.

Honestly, since you put the cart before the horse by having a child with a man and then much later deciding whether or not you want to properly date him, there is no easy answer here.

However, if it were me, I'd give it a go with the father of my child since, frankly, the boundaries you have with the man have shifted over time, as has his relationship with your son. You already flirt with him and have mixed emotions about him, so dating him for awhile without disclosing anything to your son is hardly going to be a radical shift, even if it doesn't work out, right?

If there's any possibility to create a stable, two-parent home for your child (this possibility could be achieved without any home-wrecking on your part-- from what you've written it seems at one point or another the father of your child has wanted to give things between you a serious try, but feels you would not be onboard) then that should be your focus.
posted by devymetal at 7:45 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best thing for both you and your kid would be to set and maintain strict and clearly-defined boundaries for your relationship with this man and then stay within those boundaries. Don't flirt with him, don't try to have him as anything but a friend and a father to your kid.

Look, here's the deal: He's proclaiming his love for you while he's in a relationship with another woman. Maybe he'd walk away from her, for you. If so, what makes you think he wouldn't do the same to you if it came up?

It's okay to want to be with him; sometimes one feels an incredible pull towards another person even when it's not a great idea. But part of growing up is doing what's best, even when it's not what you want. And I just don't think a relationship with him sounds like a good idea from the information given.

As to the other end of my question, is a sit down too much of me to ask, so that we can assess where we want to go as parents?

No, it's not too much to ask, and actually it's probably a really good idea. But only to discuss where you want to go as parents. Because you are parents to this kid, and that requires communication. Lots of it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:45 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can have a sitdown with him first, then include her. Realize that this is going to be a process, he's not going to suddenly start throwing his opinion around.

On second thought, maybe you should have a sit down with her first? She knows him better and can be useful as an ally in coaxing him out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 AM on December 28, 2011

If it were me, I might involve the help of a family therapist who has lots of experience with divorced families. You two have a couple sessions and then involve your son. He's old enough to have a say, too, believe it or not. When I was a kid, we did some family therapy and it was really helpful for me to know that I was being heard in a safe environment. I bet he has opinions, too. Girlfriend can be brought into the fold later after the boy has bought in.

And, no, I don't think you should go after this guy. If he were available, which he's not, I'd suggest therapy along with secret courtship. I feel like both of you are showing some immature attitudes about relationships and this particular union requires the utmost maturity and delicate handling to be successful. I think trying to break up his relationship and create a new one is a recipe for poisen.
posted by amanda at 8:01 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

You cannot do anything while he is in his current relationship. You cannot sabotage the relationship, because the karma will come back--there are many bonds with other people he has and those persons will react to straining or severing of those bonds, either towards you, the man, or your son. Therefore you must act as if there is no possibility of a relationship and if you are interested in dating again, find someone who is free.

Finally, imagine if he is in your son's life as a real father and then it all goes south. That will be a hard blow.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:06 AM on December 28, 2011

Everybody has already said no, don't date him, and I'm nthing that. My parents tried to do this and it had a horrible impact on my brother and I - the issues between them, rather than being resolved, were swept under "complete and happy family" rug and the impact hasn't died, decades later. You must, for the sake of your child, establish healthy boundaries and stick to them.

The mutual flirtation doesn't say "relationship" to me, it says, "same shit different day" - kind of just returning to the old relationship which was primarily based on sex. You still don't know him, you still hold some ill will towards him. That said, you can and should spend time together as a family and you and your son should get to know this man, but that doesn't mean you have to be dating each other at this point or maybe even ever.

As far as his defensiveness/confidence in his own parenting skills go, I don't think it's necessarily your job to prop him up, but based on what you've written about him I don't think you actually do have a super high opinion of his parenting skills and that probably does come across to him. Positive reinforcment and gradual inclusion in decision making will help his confidence as a father grow without too much "build me up buttercup"ing on your part.
posted by sm1tten at 8:42 AM on December 28, 2011

Romantic relationship? No, that ship sailed, hit an iceberg, and sank a long time ago. Co-parenting relationship focused on your son? Certainly. Children respond really well to not-together but cooperative, supportive parents who can put their shit and drama aside for the kid's best interest. Do that if you can.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:36 AM on December 28, 2011

If he's every single and you're single and still having feeling, give it a whirl.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on December 28, 2011

All other issues aside, I would never date a man who was not an involved father, even if he later forged a relationship with the child he ignored/abandoned. Yeah, people change and make mistakes, forgiveness is great, yep yep yep, but that is still the worst relationship outcome I can imagine, short of abuse. I wouldn't date a wife beater, even he had reformed, and I wouldn't date someone who had abandoned his child, either.
posted by Leta at 10:29 AM on December 28, 2011

About the co-parenting side of things. I would guess that he has gotten a clear message that you are the custodial parent, you are deeply committed to raising your child and you have and want the right make decisions. So, what it is that you really want from him? You obviously don't want to start fighting about parental decisions - you still want the final say. My guess is that you want him to care more without caring so much that he tries to override your decisions. Sounds tricky, right? I think you need to think very hard about what you would like his role to be with your son. Right now, you may be sending a double message (don't cowl to me but I am in charge). With parents, you can have long talks about what to do about problem xyz and still expect them to be OK with whatever you decide. With the child's father, if you want involve in him in this kind of conversation and not to automatically defer to you, they have have to be prepared for him to feel a commitment to his view of what is best for his (as well as your) child. I guess I would focus on deepening the personal connection between him and his son rather than seeing him as a source of moral support for parenting issues.
posted by metahawk at 12:11 PM on December 28, 2011

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