A couple months ago I wrote about what I expected to be a sweet one-off hook-up with a hot motorcycle-riding Sicilian I was convinced I had nothing in common with.
I was right, but I was also wrong (hate that!).
Yeah, I got the fun date I was after, but there was something else that had me going back for more. A man who casually quotes Joseph Conrad is certainly worth a second date. And what girl doesn’t love to wake in the morning to find herself tucked into bed, the previous night’s clothes neatly folded on the dresser, heels paired nearby? But Lou’s most compelling quality is his capacity to love children who are not his own in a way that I have not yet encountered in men I date.
As I got to know Lou, he chatted about different kids in his life — a teenage nephew in a troubled situation who lived with him for a few years, and is now a college student on full scholarship. Lou shows me pics on his phone of two preschool-aged nieces, and laughs about their antics when he takes them Sunday morning breakfasts. He’s had several long-term relationships with single moms, and seems sad when I ask about those women’s kids who he no longer sees. Whether it is simply his nature to easily love children who are not biologically his, or that these kids fill a void created by the absence of children of his own, I do not know. But he made me realize that my list of qualities I’m seeking in a long-term partner was woefully short.
Now, all the way at the very top of my list is: He can love my kids.
I date mostly men with kids, partly because I find it hot and helpful to see what kind of dad a guy is to his own children. Until Lou, I blindly assumed that if a man is an adoring, devoted fathers to his own children, those qualities automatically transfer to the children of other people. People like second spouses. People like me.
But as I get to know blended families and spend time as a single parent, I can see why step-families are often rife with challenges, and the divorce rates for second and third marriages is so high — especially if those unions include children from previous relationships. Parenting is hard. Relationships are hard. Throw two families together — that is some tricky business.
But I don’t believe it is impossible with the right couple. The right man. Now, when I’m sussing out a guy, and I smell a potential long-term mate, “good with kids” and “great dad” simply are not enough. I need a man who has the bandwidth to love other people’s children. My children.
A few Sunday mornings ago while hanging out, Lou called his nieces’ parents to arrange their weekly outing. He put on speaker phone (Lou’s no dumbass: he knows chicks love guys who are good with kids), broadcasting the squeaky, yammering voice that can only belong to a happy 3-year-old girl. “What are you doing, sweetie?” he asked her. “Hi-Uncle-Louie!-I-went-to-swim-lessons!-Are-you-going-to-take-us-to-breakfast!-I-want-the-pancakes!-When-are-you-coming-I-love-you-Uncle-Louie!””I love you, Honey!” he said, grinning his huge, adorable smile. “I love you, too.”
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.