Assuming Responsibility (of Someone Else's Kids)

Balancing possibility and reality when dating a single parent, and a gender-uniting translation of an age-old euphemism.

Q: I met a girl recently who I like, we’ve been talking, and I think I’m going to ask her out. I say “think” because there is one hang-up. She has kids, two boys. They are both under the age of five and I haven’t met them. I would like to think I’m the guy who could take on an existing family if things were to work out between us. (Men’s desire to be the hero plays in here.) I think I am, but I’m not sure, and I don’t think it is fair to her to pursue her only to get to a point where I have to decide if I want to marry her and decide to break up because I can’t handle the thought of raising someone else’s kids.

 Is there any way to know if you can handle this sort of situation before pursuing the relationship? Unsure Possible Stepdad

A: Yes, my friend, there IS a way to see if you can handle this sort of situation before pursuing a relationship. It’s called dinner. Or drinks. Or coffee.

I know the whole single mom (or single dad, for that matter) scenario can send lots of people backpedaling from a prospective love connection. And while the comes-with-kids package deal can be a sticking point, is it really that different from dating someone who’s significantly older or younger than you, or from a different racial background, or has different religious or political views? Yes, there are impressionable young’uns at stake, and no doubt your gal is looking out for them, if she’s worth her salt as a momma. But deciding whether you want to get serious with someone happens the same way each time: by getting to know them. If you like this girl, ask her out, just like you would anybody else you’re interested in, and see where it goes.

In other words: Slow the hell down. Enough with all the thinking and the whole marriage/kids fretting so early on (we women do too much of that already). And assuming her offspring aren’t the byproducts of random one-night stands, my friend J. – whose boyfriend has two children, by the way – points out, “Does she even want to get married again? She’s gotten out of a relationship (possibly divorced) with two small children and I doubt marriage is at the top of her to-do list.”

J. and I both agree that honesty is critical when it comes to discussing the future of the relationship or meeting the kids. A single parent doesn’t have time for games – she’s got diapers to change and a household to run, and probably a career to manage. And don’t forget this gem from Rod Tidwell, the smooth-talking wide receiver from Jerry Maguire: “A real man wouldn’t shoplift the pootie from a single mother.” (Not that I suspect you of such prickery – unless, of course, you’re both cool with some no-strings-attached luvin.’ Again, see: Honesty, above.)

Finally, some personal insight from J. about “raising someone else’s kids”: “Part-time parenting has its perks, like sleeping in every other weekend, romantic getaways and date nights — all sans children. When you have your own – they’re all yours. The hospital won’t take them back and grandparents will only babysit if it doesn’t interfere with their bingo nights.”

So go ahead and ask this hot mama out. Just don’t take her to any place that has “Kid’s Menu” printed anywhere – and banish the word “stepdad” from your vocabulary for at least six months.


Q: What’s the difference between “let’s just be friends” when delivered by guy vs. gal, both in intent and in interpretation? – Just a Friend


A: If what you’re really asking is “What does ‘let’s be friends’ really mean when it’s delivered by each gender, and how it should be taken?”, then here’s my take.


When a guy says, “Let’s just be friends,” it can have several shades of distinction in its real meaning: 1) “I’m not interested in you as a girlfriend but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of me hitting on you when I’m drunk to see if I can score”; 2) “Though I don’t like like you, I like you, and I really would like to stay friends”; 3) “I don’t like you, period, and I couldn’t give a frog’s fat ass about being friends, but I can’t think of any other way to let you down easy”; 4) “By friends, I don’t mean that we’ll be in regular touch, but if I run into you at a bar and you’re with some of your hot friends, I’d love for you to introduce me.”


When a girl says, “Let’s just be friends,” it usually means 1) “I’m not interested in you as a boyfriend but if you want to take me to expensive dinners and shower attention on me, I’m cool with that”; 2-4) See above.


So, see, this is one area where our fair sexes might be more alike that different. Still, like so much else in dating, the whole “let’s be friends” thing is best figured out through context – and with a giant grain of salt (like the kind that rims a margarita, which is what I’m about to suck down as soon as I hit send. Hallelujah for happy hour.)


  1. What do you do when “let’s be friends” is too vague and you get flowers sent to you on Valentine’s day from someone you gave the boot two months ago? Nothing. That’s what I did, anyway.

    Comment by J. Miller — February 26, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

  2. In my experience, let’s be friends means – I am going to treat you like a girlfriend but I want to be able to date whoever I want, so if I say we are ‘just friends’ it is your fault if you get led on.

    Comment by Khandi — March 7, 2010 @ 2:53 am

  3. Of course it doesn’t look good when it came from a guy, but going deeper it’s the same.

    Comment by Dustin — June 30, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

  4. People in love should not think of the reason why you can’t but think of the reason why you can. Hope that will help, and for me if this ever happens and if I love the person then why not… go for it!

    Comment by Jeff — June 30, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  5. “Let’s just be friends” for me means I don’t want anything serious with you. Or I am just playing it safe so nothing will go wrong. This line is normally used by a playah and it’s a sure sign of trouble.

    Comment by Mel — June 30, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

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