When we first got together, we talked about what my role would be in Ben’s life. It was a quick talk and we decided we would just deal with it later, and now, almost two years later, we are finally there. Kylie just asked me if I could be Ben’s dad and love him as much as she does, and while I do love him, the title of dad scares me right now and I don’t know if I want to commit to a life-long role so early in my own life. I am happy and fine to be a father-figure and role model, but I also believe that in a sense her son should decide what I am to him as my own step-dad let me do. I also find it hard for me to think of myself as a dad due to not being financially stable and not being able to do more for Ben than I currently do. I don’t want to assume a dad role and not be able to provide what, in my head, are good dad qualities. My girlfriend expected me to already be at the dad phase as it’s been almost two years that we’ve been together; it’s just I’m having a hard time adjusting and accepting that life-changing role.
Please any advice would be greatly appreciated. — Not Quite Ready to Be a Dad
Your hesitation in embracing the role of Ben’s father is appropriate and understandable for two very good related reasons: you aren’t ready to take on the responsibility of being a father, and Ben is not your biological child. (Of course, the first point would be moot if the second point weren’t true, but it is.) In addition: you and Kylie aren’t married and don’t live together; you haven’t spent a lot of time with Ben (you say you primarily hang out with Kylie without Ben); you’re only 20 years old; and you don’t feel financially stable enough to provide for a child. For all of these reasons, you need to let Kylie know in no uncertain terms exactly what you told me: You are happy to be a role model to her son and a male figure in his life to whom he can turn, but you are not ready or prepared to accept the responsibility of being Ben’s dad right now and likely won’t be for a while.
In time, you may find that that role is one you would be honored to accept (particularly if you feel it is being granted to you by Ben himself), but for now, stay comfortable in the role you’re in (that of Ben’s mother’s boyfriend who is a friend and role model to Ben but not a dad). Don’t ever move in with Kylie unless/until you are ready to assume the emotional, physical, and financial responsibility of co-parenting Ben (and perhaps fathering additional children if that is something you both want and discuss in-depth). And in the meantime, urge Kylie to seek child support from Ben’s father, which she is entitled to, and which may ease some of the pressure she feels and may unfairly be trying to misdirect onto you.
If Kylie continues to pressure you into taking on a dad role to Ben, don’t relent. Taking on that responsibility before you’re ready is a sure-fire way to build resentment (quickly!), likely dooming your relationship as well as whatever promise may have existed in nurturing a close and strong bond between you and Ben. If Kylie can’t accept your role in Ben’s life as it is now, and with no guarantee it will ever be more, you both might want to consider that this is a deal-breaker in your relationship and it might be time to move on.
I’ve always wanted kids, but as a 49-year-old divorced man my time is running out. There are women online that are relatively young enough to have kids. My ideal age range would be 37-40, but finding the right match is another challenge altogether. One night on the town, I met a lovely woman whom I really connected with. She’s 45 and divorced with no children.
We’ve gone out three times. I’m physically attracted to her and we both like each other. We have common interests and have a good connection. She told me she’s not sure if she can have kids at her age. She likes children but has never had a strong desire to have her own. To find someone young enough to have a child with, I have to end it with Joanne, but will I find someone younger that I’m compatible with? How long will it take to find? Will she fall pregnant? Will the baby be healthy?
Everything has to be rushed and there are no guarantees. I mean I could meet a 38-year-old, she falls pregnant, and we could break up afterwards. Or I could meet someone and she can’t fall pregnant. Ideally, it’s better to get to know someone first and then decide if you want to have kids with them. But that’s for couples who have time, something I haven’t got.
The bottom is: If i decide to keep looking for someone to have a child with, I have to let Joanne go. If I don’t find this younger woman to have a child with, I miss out on Joanne.
Any guidance or recommendations would be helpful.
P.S – I’m aware from reading your blog that you have kids, so I’m not sure you can answer this. Can a childfree/childless couple be happy growing old together? Especially when your peers have raised kids? — Ready to Be a Father
You pose these questions as if you’re only weighing potential compromises and sacrifices – and their effects on your chances of being a dad — for the first time when, in fact, you surely have faced and weighed compromises many times already. You don’t get to 49 years old, having “always wanted kids,” and only now, for the first time, weighed your options and considered the long-term effects of your choices. I mean, you’re divorced, for crying out loud – surely, the idea of kids came up in your marriage. Maybe it was even a cause for your split, I don’t know. But I urge you to think back over the years and over your past relationships and ask yourself an important question: What has been a bigger guiding light in the more productive/affirming/positive steps and choices you’ve made—giving yourself space to find love or giving yourself space to become a parent?
The thing is, there are zero guarantees for any of us. Even those of us who want children and are lucky enough to find partners with still enough fertile years left to conceive don’t have the promise of babies. So much can happen on the road to parenthood to make it an impossibility for some — or, at least, a challenge difficult to overcome without loads of resources. And, yes, being 49 certainly adds to the challenge and makes the possibility of becoming a biological parent that much slimmer, and so you have to ask yourself what is more important: finding a loving partner or becoming a parent (because it’s very possible you aren’t going to get both).
I’ll be frank with you: It’s unlikely that a woman who wants kids as much as you do and is young enough to have them biologically, without intervention, is actively looking for a man who’s almost 50 years old to have them with. Men your age are automatically weeded out in online searches by those women. When you reach out to them and they see that you’re well into middle-age, they’re not likely to reply – not if they want children, and not if they feel like they still have a little time to find someone, fall in love, and build a relationship with the person before becoming parents (you know – the process you say is preferable to rushing into parenthood with someone you’ve only just met). Meeting women like that is more likely to happen organically – the way you met Joanne — when they have more than just an online profile highlighting your older age to judge you — and your potential compatibility – by.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many paths to happiness and fulfillment. Childfree couples absolutely can happily grow old together! I’d argue that there’s much, much more potential for joy in a childfree relationship based on love than in a relationship rooted more firmly in a mutual desire to procreate. Not only that, but older couples who can’t conceive naturally may find that other options in creating a family or nurturing younger lives appeal to them (IVF, egg donation, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, and, well, getting a pet—pets are wonderful sources of unconditional love!).
The bottom line is that every decision any of us makes carries with it not just the promise of potential, but also the weight of missed opportunities in choices we didn’t pursue. I mean, I can’t enjoy a box of raisinettes at the movies without missing the gummy bears I could have had instead, so I get it. But even pursuing a path you think you’ve always wanted – like parenthood – doesn’t free you of this burden, particularly if you feel you sacrificed something with great potential to make space for it. You can give up the chance of building a relationship with Joanne — though, let’s remember it’s only been three dates so far — to remain available to someone younger, and always wonder what you may have missed out on. In the end, you have to ask yourself what you fear missing out on more: a lifelong loving partner or parenthood? I suspect the answer has been your guiding light all along, and you need to continue following it.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.