Introduction of my son and daughter to my ladyfriend
January 11, 2019 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to include a lady I'm seeing on some ski-based activities that I'll do with my kids this winter. All of us enjoy skiing, and it's a 2.5 hour drive (one-way, assuming no traffic). However, I'm not sure that the lady in question, who I've been seeing for a little over 6 months, is a 'forever' - type relationship.

Ideally, I would introduce her as a 'friend' who is coming skiing with us, and not behave in any romantic ways in the presence of the kids. However, I suspect that my kids, who are pre-teen and teenage, will see right through that. Their mom and I have been separated 1.5 years, and their mom took up with a new boyfriend and introduced him to kids over a year ago, so they've got plenty of exposure to such adult dynamics.

Since it's not likely a 'forever' relationship that I have with the current lady-friend, how unwise is it to include her on the ski-days?
posted by Doc_Sock to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I vote for unwise, since this will probably signal to her that you are progressing in your intimate feelings toward her by including her in family events.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 2:04 PM on January 11 [71 favorites]

Agree with the above. Also, if she's significantly younger than you that's an extra check in the "no" column.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:05 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]

How does the lady-friend feel about being introduced? And is there any agreement between you and your ex about how the kids are introduced? To me a lot would ride on those questions. I will say that growing up I was introduced to my parent's romantic partners pretty early on, after a few weeks to a month, in the kinds of situations you describe. Only two or three out of the 8-10 lasted more than a year. I know that the prevailing wisdom right now is to wait until it's a very serious relationship, but as a kid I think I would have been slightly offended by the idea that I wasn't important enough to be part of the package deal.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:05 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

I don't know your kids personally, but if they're teenageish, they would probably just appreciate the truth, no subterfuge or hiding things. It's not like they're too young to parse relationships, they're beginning to start a part of life where they'll be having peer relationships of their own. They're actually at an age where modelling proper adult relationships would be a healthy thing for them to see.

Have they met this person before, how do the kids know her as now?
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:06 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

If your kids are looking forward to a fun ski vacation with you, it seems to me that you should, at this early phase of your romance, just have a fun ski vacation with your kids, as you've planned and so they don't feel the rug slipped out from under them. Bringing her along changes the entire vacation, not just the moments they meet your lady friend.
I'm a divorced parent. I agree with the perspectives above about thinking of her. But the kids matter most. You should introduce a new romantic partner briefly first, not as a whole other angle of a planned, anticipated vacation. And certainly at their ages, they'll understand you don't just invite a "friend" on a family trip.
posted by nantucket at 2:06 PM on January 11 [68 favorites]

Sorry, I see that it's not a sleepover vacation. But my answer is the same: it's too much for the first time. Even more so if you're not sure she's a longterm relationship. Date on your own time, including skiing, when you're not with your kids. Use your parenting time for non-dating time, spent with your kids.
posted by nantucket at 2:16 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

I think I would ask what the particular purpose of introducing her would be, if it's not to introduce your kids to someone they will know in the long-term, and then behave accordingly.
posted by unstrungharp at 2:20 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

Yeah, people have very strong opinions on when you introduce someone you are seeing to your kids. Some folks think it should be Very Serious, while others think the bar should be lower. So you'll definitely see a range of answers here.

My take, generally, is that if kids are older, it's okay if they meet folks more casually, the way they might meet a non-romantic friend, especially if that person isn't suddenly spending a ton of time around them. Your kids may well ask if you're dating. They may think you're dating even if they don't ask. You should be ready for these questions and conversations. If you're not, I wouldn't do it. Please do not lie.

Specifically, in your case: first, make sure you and your girlfriend are on the same page about this--that you are introducing her as a friend, and that you don't necessarily see this as an escalation in your relationship. If that's a conversation you aren't ready to have with her, I'm not sure you should do this.

I also wonder if it might be better if they met her casually first in some other context, before a day-long trip, if only to say hello. At the very least they should have heard you mention her. Does she generally like kids? Pre-teens and teens can be weird (I say as a mom of teens). Is she okay with that?

Ultimately, I think this is fine if you are comfortable having a conversation with the woman you're seeing about all this, and if you're ready to answer questions the kids might ask in front of her in the car, and if you would also invite a non-romantic neighbor or friend along in this kind of situation. If you'd invite along a friend your kids might never see again, then it seems fine to me if that friend is also someone you're sleeping with.

As a child of divorced parents, I met, casually, a few women my dad was dating before he remarried. One time we stopped by one woman's house to drop something off. I was in middle school, and it was no big deal because my dad didn't make it one.

Another note:
their mom took up with a new boyfriend and introduced him to kids over a year ago
I could be reading too much into this, but "took up with" has a distinctly negative and critical tone about it. If you have some negative feelings about this man and your ex, I hope you are working hard not to show that to your kids.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:29 PM on January 11 [15 favorites]

Just because they've been introduced to this type of "friend" dynamics by their mom doesn't mean you should follow her (shitty) example. As a kid/teen/young adult, I was introduced to many "friends" of my mom and dad and it really, really sucked.

If you want to ski with your kids, go with your kids. If you want to ski with your friend, go with your friend. There's absolutely no reason to mix the two now, when you're not even sure if this woman is a long-term prospect. Doing so is selfish on your part, and harms your children and your relationship with them.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:31 PM on January 11 [13 favorites]

I wouldn't. I'm guessing you're on a visitation schedule? I'd hate it (DID hate it,) as a child of divorce, when "time with dad" turned into "tagging along with dad and his gf"; would be even more offended if "dad's taking us skiing" turned into "dad's taking gf along skiing during our visit."
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:33 PM on January 11 [26 favorites]

If everyone is bringing a friend, then maybe this is your choice of friend to bring. But if this is a family ski trip, why do you get to bring a "friend" but they don't?
posted by CathyG at 2:36 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]

Yeah, just don't.
posted by Sublimity at 2:42 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]

It's OK for adults to have romantic relationships that do not become life partnerships, as long as the people involved treat each other with kindness and respect. If that's the dynamic in this relationship, and I see no reason to uncharitably assume that it isn't, then this is who you are and how you're choosing to live your life and it's not wrong or shameful. In principle, there's no reason why you should have to hide this normal, acceptable, positive part of your life from your children.

However, the fact that you are hesitant enough to ask this question makes me think that you have some reason to believe that it wouldn't be a good thing to do. You want to do it, but your gut is telling you no and so you're seeking outside approval. I think you should listen to your gut on this one. For whatever reason, this isn't the right person/time/way to introduce your romantic life to your kids.

Take a step back and think about what this woman really means to you. Make sure that you know, in your heart of hearts, that you are treating her kindly and respectfully. Think about why you are hesitant, and how much of that has to do with the way you think your kids would feel about it. Make sure that you aren't being selfish here, and that you're treating the other parties well—both your partner and your children. Pump the brakes a little and make sure you're on solid ethical footing before you take further steps.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:47 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

Skiing isn't a good one for this. It is a very long activity, including 5 hours in the car. There are multiple opportunities for not-fun moments - getting hurt, being grouchy in the car ride home (we are ALWAYS grouchy in the car ride home), expensive and bad food, disagreements about what run to take, potential for bad weather or traffic on the road, people not showing up at the appointed time, not being able to contact people... No one in my family is at their best when we are going to the slopes.

Better to do something briefer in duration, in your normal location so that everyone involved has an escape hatch.
posted by k8t at 2:52 PM on January 11 [26 favorites]

This isn't the right way to introduce kids to someone you're seeing. Unless, of course, your enteire family is super-chill and I think if they were you would not be asking this. So just wanbted to agree with others

- Skiing could be a recipe for strong emotions (injury, hunger, overtiredness) and isn't a good first step before you know if these people like each other
- I am another child of divorce who resented the hell out of how "weekends with dad" became "we tag along on dad's dates" once he had a girlfriend
- something small and "set up for success" is really a better way to have an early meeting or two.
- having an "I'd like you to meet my kids so we have more flexibility in our time together, not because I am trying to take this relationship to the next level" convo is also an important part of this
- don't bother with the friend conceit, everyone hates that

If you find yourself chafing about this--that is, you'd really prefer to go skiing with your girlfriend alone and not your kids alone, if you got to choose--just plan a separate trip with your girlfriend and don't try to mash both of those things together.
posted by jessamyn at 3:13 PM on January 11 [31 favorites]

I was that woman. For the sake of the children and for her, please don’t. I get that you want a free trial, or to test the waters so to speak... but everybody knows what’s going on. And it sucks. She may or may not get attached. I did. And if after the sixth, seventh, or even eight month you decide to end it, she suddenly loses three people from her life, and you’ve only lost one.
posted by nathaole at 7:34 PM on January 11 [16 favorites]

Before reading the comments, I was going to say do it, but be open about it. At the age of your kids I would have known what was going on but if you didn't admit it I would have felt I wasn't allowed to bring it up either, which isn't a great message.

After the comments I'm amending to agree it's not a first intro. Still don't think it's horrible if they've all met in a different context but there's obviously a lot of variables.
posted by mark k at 8:36 PM on January 11

Speaking from my experience of my mom dating when I was a tween/teen, oh my lord, I would have hated this. She waited till things were on the serious side before introducing my brothers and I to anyone, but nothing made me resent them (and her and life and everything in my teen world) like Family Things suddenly becoming Family Plus This Outsider things. I couldn't articulate at the time why it was so miserable, but looking back, it made me feel secondary and like our little family wasn't as stable and safe as I needed it to be. Was I overreacting? Kinda, yeah, teens gonna teen, but that doesn't mean that those feelings didn't deserve respect.

They're not young kids, so I don't think you need to wait till an engagement or anything mega serious to let them meet someone you're seeing, but a first intro should be in a much more casual and brief way. A daylong family outing with no escape for anyone sets all my drama and disaster warning systems alight.

And for woman you're dating, I do think you'd be majorly risking giving her reason to think you're more serious than you are about her, and that doesn't seem fair or kind.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:50 PM on January 11 [10 favorites]

I think it's underestimating your kids, at their ages, to think they can only be introduced to people who are going to become life partners. Not letting them know that you're dating at all seems like you're keeping a secret. And I think it's normal and reasonable to include all the people who are a significant part of your life right now in activities together.

I do however agree that they should initially meet for a shorter period of time (maybe have her over for dinner with you all) and then the kids should be asked if it's okay if she comes along on each trip. And if your time with them is super limited, you should probably focus the vast majority of it on them without distraction. (At minimum, a full day per week. If they're typical kids, they may spend much of that time doing their own thing, but knowing you're 100% available makes a difference.)
posted by metasarah at 7:12 AM on January 12

Clarifications: lady friend and I recently conversed about the long term prospects for our relationship. Her career will eventually involve relocation (uncertain timeline), whereas my career is very difficult to relocate. In addition, I’m personally loathe to consider ‘forever’ relationships at this point in my life. This is absolutely a sequelae to my recent divorce. So we very much enjoy the company of one another, while understanding this is unlikely to evolve into a ‘death do us part’ kind of relationship.

In fact, it is because we’ve had this conversation that I am considering introducing her to my kids. I wouldn’t feel comfortable making this introduction otherwise.

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t include this context in the original post, as the responses are a little muddied relative to my actual question.

I think my real question: is it ok to have my kids involved in occasional activities with a lady friend who is understood not to be a forever type relationship. I ask this question because my prior assumption/ understanding is that it’s a big no-no to have dating partners around kids unless you really think it’s a forever relationship. I imagine ‘occasional’ in this context means about once a month. I’m otherwise a 50/50 parent, sharing time and responsibilities equally with my coparent.
posted by Doc_Sock at 7:39 AM on January 12

I don't think it's going to scar your kids to meet a woman whom you're dating but not going to marry. I think that advice has to do with young children who will bond to a caretaker.

I do think, from my own experience, that scheduling your dates with your gf during your kids' limited time with you is hurtful to your relationship with them.

I suggest you ask them: "kids, would you prefer that I schedule my time with Phyllis during your time with me, or when you're with your mom?" (NOT "hey kids is it ok with you if Phyllis joins us for the ski trip", because if your kids seek your affection they will never be honest in responding to that phrasing.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]

is it ok to have my kids involved in occasional activities with a lady friend who is understood not to be a forever type relationship

At that age? I think so. You do risk having them stay friends with your "ex" at some future time when you are no longer together. I do think however if this is mainly a fun relationship for you that you be very cautious about how timing works when you see your GF. That is, if you are an "every other weekend" dad you be pretty mindful to not fill up that time with someone who you're not planning to make "part of the family" (as fingersandtoes says, let your kids sort of drive the bus there) Because who knows, maybe your kids really like her and she becomes someone they really like and look forward to hanging out with also? Could happen.

The coda to my "I didn't like hanging out with my dad's girlfriend" story above is that both my parents have died and I'm still in touch with friends of my parents including my dad's not-forever girlfriend from way back. And it's actually nice.
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Your kids will know it's a relationship. They may or may not be resentful, it may or may not go well, and you are 2.5 hours from home, for a weekend. Spend the weekend with the kids, have fun. Tell them you'd like to introduce them to someone you're seeing, someone you care for, but do it in a different and easier scenario.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Channeling my inner child of divorce, and my current me: Please do not refer to her as "lady friend." Just ... don't. She's your friend, or your girlfriend, or the woman you're dating.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 10:52 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]

Why should they? What are they going to get out of it? If you're a 50/50 parent, you've got literally half of every month to spend with your friend without your kids. Use that time.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:11 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

As a divorced parent with 50% custody, I can say that there are real benefits to my kids of spending time with my other partners. Having another adult around often changes dynamics in ways that are more fun for everyone as a change of pace. Having other adults in their lives is generally good for them, in my opinion. And I think it's healthy for them to see me having a life that isn't 100% focused on them but is also not kept entirely separate from them. The kids and I get far more one-on-one time than if I remarried, and I rarely see judgment about remarriage. (And if I did remarry it would be super weird to announce my engagement to the kids if they'd never spent any time with their future stepparent!)
posted by metasarah at 5:52 PM on January 12

I'd say probably not for a vacation, particularly as a first meeting, but wish to echo some posters above: meeting my divorced parents' lovers (always, in the beginning, "someone I'm seeing", never "lady friend" or "man friend" - those terms guarantee an eyeroll) was a net gain in my childhood. It exposed me to new adults (who, obviously, had been vetted by my parent) and to their world views, experiences, and interests. It also allowed me to see, as I got older, how different adult relationships functioned, and how my parents - who I grew to see as autonomous beings outside my relationship with them - acted differently with new partners than they had with each other.
posted by goofyfoot at 6:21 PM on January 12

I honestly do not understand why you would want to do this. It's sort of odd. If she isn't going to be integral to their lives then I really don't get it. I still don't understand what "lady friend" is either. Is she your girlfriend? Just a woman you hang out with? To me that is the status of a friend and I personally would have no interest whatsoever in meeting people who my dad likes to hang out with whether it's a casual date or if it's Ted from Finance. I would want to spend time with just him. It's family time. People who are not family or potential family members should not be there. I would be really pissed off if it ate into "our" time. I understand if it's your birthday party and you invite her but not during time with your kids especially not what will be a super awkward 2.5 hour card ride!

People may feel differently but if you're just going to have casual flings and nothing serious then I cannot think of a single reason why you should introduce them to any of these women at all no matter what their age is.

One caveat: If everyone is an adult and bringing along partners then that changes things. Then it's okay.

Personally I would wait until the career changes occur and see how you both feel about your future together then.

Your ex wife may have introduced her boyfriend because maybe she considers that relationship to be long term?
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 3:34 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

Provided that no one is particularly struggling with related topics (e.g. your separation from their mom?) it's good to model to your kids that daddy dates and romantic companionship is a good thing, especially when we're talking about teen/pre-teen, when they're mature enough to think about those things. Did you read the recent Atlantic piece about how young people are dating less and less? Dad modeling dating behavior strikes me as a good preventive measure there. Once a month sounds fine, as it's not the dynamic described above, when it's constantly dragging along on dad's dates without quality alone time with dad. However, it would probably be good to talk to them ahead of time, and also check in with all parties after this happens once or twice and see whether everyone is ok with continuing. If it's really hard on one of your kids, recalibrate.
posted by namesarehard at 10:08 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I think that yes, there is nothing wrong in principle with your kids meeting your girlfriend. I agree that on the whole it's good for kids to see their parents modeling a full life, including romantic relationships. Learning how to navigate relationships—including short-term ones—is a really super important life skill that kids can learn from watching their parents do it. And it's important for children to see some of their parents' lives as people, rather than just as their parents. I dunno that your original skiing plan is a great one, but there's nothing inherently shameful about a relationship that doesn't last forever, and it's not wrong for your kids to see it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:55 PM on January 15

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