Father’s Day With A Single Dad

If you’re dating a single dad, what should your role be on Father’s Day—if any?

By Randy B. Hecht

ou’re dating a great guy who happens to be a dad. Father’s Day is coming up on the calendar, and you’re not sure how (or if) you should join in the celebration. It’s a bit of a balancing act: You’re trying to let him know you’re available and happy to spend time with his kids, but at the same time, you don’t want him to think you’re pressuring him to include you in whatever he has planned — or that you’re trying to push the relationship faster than he wants it to go.

Not sure what he wants? Read on for some advice from
This is not one of those times when you’re on equal footing.
single dads themselves.

Let him lead
This is not one of those times when you’re on equal footing and making a joint decision about how you’ll spend a Sunday afternoon. You need to defer to him on this one — and he, in turn, will need to defer to his children.

“I’ve always appreciated my girlfriend understanding that this is an important day for me to spend some time with my kids,” says Rick Albrecht, 51, of Phoenix, who has sons ages 19 and 14. “I’ve been divorced for seven years and have spent Father’s Day in relationships at various stages. So the extent of my girlfriend’s involvement depends a great deal on her relationship with my kids. When I have been dating someone briefly and she doesn’t know my kids well, I have asked her to let me spend the day alone with them. If I am in a more serious, committed relationship, I might ask her to come along to a family gathering or out to dinner with us, but I would still expect her to understand that the focus is on my kids and that they are the ones calling the shots for the day.”

Be aware of the ex factor
If his divorce was amicable, you may run into another scenario: Some ex-spouses are opting to celebrate holidays like this together so that their children will have some memories of intact family
By remembering their needs, you can be a welcome part of Father’s day.
gatherings. Since that, too, is done for the children, see the situation for its positive value: It’s a sign that the man you’re dating knows how to put someone else’s needs first. That’s a quality well worth appreciating.

Take part—but don’t take control
What if you’re invited to participate in this family celebration? Great — it means the man in your life wants to start making you part of his children’s lives. That’s significant, says Dennis Schwindt, director of public relations for Bellevue, Washington’s East Side Chapter 55 of Parents Without Partners, one of the organization’s five largest chapters worldwide. Schwindt, who was awarded full custody of his three sons (all of whom are now adults), suggests that if you find yourself invited to participate in this family event, you cast yourself in a supporting role. “Don’t take charge, because the kids will resent that. They’re looking for guidance, but guidance on their own terms. Kids covet that time with dad, and you have to be sensitive to that — and they’ll pick up on your putting them first.”

What kind of guidance is good? Offer ideas about things they might want to do to celebrate, but don’t take over: Suggest that they might want to make breakfast for dad, but don’t commandeer the kitchen yourself. One tactic Schwindt finds particularly successful: when his girlfriend volunteers as photographer, taking family pictures that literally and figuratively keep the focus on the children and their father. It’s their day — but by remembering their needs, you can be a welcome part of it.

Randy B. Hecht is a freelance writer based in New York.
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