Dating Lesbians With Kids

by Mary Malia

I could be crazy for writing this post – Dating Lesbian’s With Kids – but I’m going to take my chances!

I’m a lesbian with kids. They are both grown now, but it wasn’t always that way and it created more than a few problems when my daughter was younger.

Most were my fault based on my own inexperience in the lesbian community because I came out later in life and in dating with children.

You may not know that when I came out my son was 18 at the time and my daughter was almost 7.

When I left my then husband, I moved out with my daughter. My son stayed with his father while finishing up his last year in high school.

My departure from my son was done only after much thought, counseling and then conversations with his father. At the time, it was the best option for all of us but it was heart breaking at the time.

I began dating right as we split and the first woman I dated never met my daughter while we were dating. Karen lived in another state and we saw each other on weekends when my daughter was with her father.

Dating Lesbians With Kids Isn’t Simple

In my next short but very intense local relationship with Jennifer, we both had children and we mixed it up with the kids right away. My daughter was thrilled to make friends with Jennifer’s kids. They seemed ok with Zoe being around.

That relationship went south pretty quickly and when Jennifer told me that Zoe was not allowed to play with her kids, it broke my heart and it broke Zoe’s heart. She felt punished and couldn’t understand what she’d done wrong.

It was a really sad time in our lives. One of Jennifer’s sons and Zoe were the same age and in school together. They had really had enjoyed each other’s company. When Zoe called to speak to the boy on one occasion after our break up, Jennifer got on the phone and railed on me and said never to let Zoe call again. That was another sad day.

The next woman I dated, Lisa, was a long distance relationship. She was very long distance so we didn’t see each other often but I introduced her to Zoe on her first visit in Maine. They adored each other from the start and Zoe really adored Lisa’s playfulness.

Lisa and I had a rocky relationship and it was off and on for many years  until it ended a couple of years ago. Lisa loved Zoe but she and I were never co-parents. Lisa was never around enough. I know Lisa would have loved that, but again she wasn’t present to be in Zoe’s life that way.

In the course of my relationship with Lisa, we had many conversations about Zoe. Many were about Lisa feeling neglected when I was unavailable for her phone calls because I was spending time with Zoe. And that was very specific time that happened every day – homework, dinner and snuggle time.

For me, being a mom had to come first. There was no one else to sit with her and help with her homework, no one else to cook for her and no one else to snuggle with her and pay attention to her every day.  It was so difficult to have that be a point of contention with a girlfriend who I also loved and never got to see often enough.

I’d also experienced my daughter having a very bad emotional reaction to my coming out process about a year or so into it. And she had good reason. I’d torn her life apart. Her family and the home she’d grown up in were no more.

I’d made her change schools to live in the same neighborhood that Jennifer and her boys lived in. So she’d see the the boys at school and play with them, but couldn’t talk to them otherwise.  She missed her old school and her friends. Her world had turned up side down and so had mine.

Perhaps it was guilt at what I’d done. It had been my decision to come out that brought my daughter to that place of despair. I felt responsible for her broken heart and for ensuring that she felt as safe as possible going forward.

What became apparent after a while was that Lisa and I had very different values in life and those were reflected in how she related to Zoe versus how I related to Zoe. It was another point of contention in our relationship that I’d rarely experienced in my marriage. I was often at a loss with how to deal with Lisa’s needs versus my daughter’s and as a single mom, my daughter’s needs just came first.

Finally I started working with a good therapist. She’s the one that taught me the concept that women who come out late in life have to grow-up in “lesbian years” and that early on we date like teen-agers versus mature adults.

She also taught me about the idea of tribe. Mom’s relate to their kids as their tribe and for a lover to become part of that tribe takes a long long time and lots of shows of loyalty. We talked about this directly as it related to Zoe and Lisa.  I had no patience for Lisa acting like she was a mother to Zoe. I knew Lisa loved Zoe but she wasn’t around, she wasn’t contributing to taking care of Zoe and she wasn’t doing the daily work of helping Zoe grow up.

That’s a very tribal way of thinking. I didn’t view Lisa as part of my tribe when it came to my kid. We weren’t raising Zoe together. Hell, Lisa and I spent most of our time breaking up not being a couple.

And in case you haven’t put it together by now, this one relationship was a big reason I dove into learning more about dating and relationships – what makes them work, why we get into relationships that don’t work and why we get stuck in them instead of moving on. My personal experience in this one relationship was a big part of the creation of Gay Girl Dating Coach.

Beyond what I considered to be the facts of life when it comes to raising kids, i.e. it’s one hell of a lot of work;  I realized Lisa and I had such different ideas about raising kids and Lisa had no qualms about putting me down in front of Zoe.  It took me years to realize this was driven by her belief that I was putting her down by not letting her have a say in how Zoe was being raised. Ah yes, the proverbial catch 22.

I dated Donna for a year during a multi-year period of time when I wasn’t dating Lisa. Donna never had a single issue with the way I parented or how much time I had available to spend with her. Donna was pretty busy in her own life and she’d raised a niece on her own for 8 years. She’d been there and done it. It was a long distance relationship and often I’d see Donna without Zoe and sometimes with Zoe. Her respect for how I raised my child was a decidedly different experience and I appreciated it.

Looking back I realize that when it came to children, Donna and I thought alike. We had similar values, perhaps because we’d both been raised Catholic. Lisa and I had very different values and had been raised very differently. That didn’t make Lisa wrong; it just made our values different and I wasn’t open to the difference. I was too intent on keeping my daughter emotionally safe.

My daughter is grown up now. She’s pretty smart about her own dating life and perhaps that’s from watching me make decisions that weren’t always wise. As a mom, I certainly loved my kids but I didn’t always make choices that were the easiest for them. That is just the way life works. I’ve had to apologize to my kids and own my mistakes.

Dating Lesbians With Kids – A Few Simple Rules

1) Don’t Rush to Meet The Kids 

In writing about dating lesbians with kids previously, I’ve encouraged women to not rush to meet someone’s kids if they are young.  Take the time to figure out if there really is a relationship worth having first. Children fall in love at the drop of a hat. My daughter taught me that and a well known psychologist taught the same thing on Oprah a few years ago.

Young children especially are little love machines. They haven’t been so deeply disappointed by life that they don’t trust as a first instinct yet. That comes later on, especially as teenagers.

If a lesbian with kids is in a big rush for you to meet the kids, I’d wonder why? And I might not trust why that is happening.

2) When You Break Up With A Mother, You Break Up With Her Kids Too

Divorce, breaking up, ending a relationship is tough on adults and it’s equally tough on kids. Battles over kids can be as insane as battles over money. And few of us are thinking clearly during a break-up.

I’ve known people who run off with their own kids just to keep the kids from a partner. Other adults trash talk their former partners in front of kids. And then there are the women that just deny their ex the right to see the kids they’ve help raised for years.

My daughter taught me this when she was about 12. She said, “Mom, I love you and I love Lisa. Every time you break up with her, I have to break up with her too!” So next time you meet someone, don’t bring her home unless you know it’s going to work.”  How did my kid get to be so smart?

3) Dating a Woman With Kids Means Accepting She’s In Charge of Her Kids Not You

I know it seems obvious but it can be really hard to take if you don’t have the same values or beliefs about how to raise kids. It can be really tough if you get pulled into arguments or discussions going on between her and the kids. You can find yourself in a place where its seems everything you do about her kids is wrong!

Stop trying to make it all make sense. Just accept that you’re going to disagree at times and then find a way to back her up. When I was married, that was what I expected from my husband. Back me up with the kids. If there was a disagreement, we discussed it behind closed doors.

4) Dating Lesbians With Kids Isn’t Going to Be Easy

Kids take time, energy, money and emotional fortitude. Some kids are easy and some are really hard to raise. Some mothers are easy going and other mothers are task masters.  You don’t need to meet her kids to know what kind of a mother she is. Watch her with other people, listen to how she talks about her kids, her ex’s and other people in general.

I had one woman say to me that she wanted to meet my daughter so she could find out what kind of person I was. I think my mouth fell open. I was stunned in part because its just not that simple. Kids are people and people aren’t that simple.

5) If You Don’t Like Kids, Stop Dating Women With Kids

This one is simple right. If her kids are grown that’s a different story.

 6) If You’re Committing to Someone With Kids – Get Clear About the Kids First

Many single mother’s will tell you their kids come first. When I was raising my daughter, that was exactly how I felt.  Why, because I was in it alone. No one else was showing up to love me first and help me raise my daughter.  Except for her father, who was barely around for a long time, I was raising this kid alone.

I had no family around to help me out. There was one friend who really stepped up to help me out and she was also a single mom. We helped each other out a lot over the years.

I didn’t see any woman I was dating coming in and taking responsibility for my daughter’s needs or picking up the financial tab for raising her. It was always a disconnect to me with Lisa. There wasn’t anyone else around to make sure she got her homework done, got a bath or got into bed on time.

This is one of the hard places for single women who love kids and want to date a lesbian with kids. It can feel like mixed signals.  The “I love you come here” and then “My kids come first.”



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