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Dealing with Part Time Dads

Dear Philippa,

I'm seeing a guy who has been divorced almost two years. He has custody of a 18 month old baby who he has 50% of the time. The thing is that he takes the child everywhere with him, to the dentist, business meetings, everywhere. I don't think this is appropriate even though I understand his reasons for doing it. He says he just enjoys having the child with him and that it is safer that way. Am I out of line suggesting there are some times when the child should be left at a babysitter?

�Gwen, Long Island, NY


Dear Gwen,

I wish I knew how long you and this guy have been dating. I also would like to know if your angst is also about wanting more private time with this guy. As usual, I have to call on my own experience in this kind of situation and you have to decide if what I say applies to you.

I believe that dating someone who has the custody of a child half of the time is tougher than dating someone whom is a full-time parent. I used to date a guy who had a ten-year-old boy he had half the time. The week we were together was great, but when the other week came around the guy had trouble balancing all the other parts of his life including our time together. This made for a very roller-coaster relationship in which I felt left out during the parenting weeks when I wanted to be included with daddy and child.

I understand how overly protective your boyfriend must seem to you. In my situation, my boyfriend was still allowing the 10-year-old to sleep in bed with him.

Being protective of a child is one thing, being motivated by guilt is another. Whatever the cause of overprotective parenting, the victim in the long run will be the child. But that is something the parent has to deal with, not you or me. All we can address is how something affects us, and how it makes us feel.

When we become critical of someone's parenting style before we are officially recognized as a co-parent, we are stepping across the line. Yes, you and your boyfriend can discuss these issues. He knows he isn't necessarily dealing with his current situation the best way he could, but it would appear that he's not ready to seek alternatives. Just don't come from a place of judgement and criticism. Imagine how you would feel if this was your child that you only saw part-time after your marriage ended.

Ask yourself what is really bothering you? Are you feeling left out of the family picture? Are you afraid of becoming more involved with someone who exhibits such overly protective behavior?

What you and your boyfriend need to talk about is what kind of relationship he wants with you and you with him. Maybe he wants a silent partner that stays out of his child's upbringing. Ask him when he thinks it would be appropriate to have your input on this subject? If he says he doesn't see that for a long time, if ever, then you need to decide if this guy is for you. Maybe in time he will figure out a way to balance his whole life with a half time child. Are you willing to hang around to wait and see if that happens?

Come from a place of acceptance and understanding. Empathy opens up the channels of communication only then can we achieve change.




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