As a twenty-year-old my dating standards were off-balance. A handsome face was #1 on my Dateable Checklist. A job or even the pursuit of a job didn’t rank at all. How was Mr. Right supposed to shower me with attention if he was spending copious amounts of time in classes or at work? Second only to an honest-to-goodness career as a deal breaker, was a child. Again, how was I supposed to be the center of some guy’s universe when there was a potentially adorable offspring walking around with half his DNA needing at least that much of his time and income? A man with a child was un-dateable as far as I was concerned.
Fast forward some years later (cough, fifteen), and I cringe with shame over those sentiments. What an idiot! These days I’m hesitant to date a man UNLESS he has children. As a parent myself, how else can I be sure that a potential mate understands the rigorous, often unexpected demands of parenting unless he too has been vomited on by a teary toddler at 5:30 a. m. or had to run to Wal-Mart on a Sunday night for emergency fourth grade project supplies? How can I know that he isn’t still living in the fairytale land of air brushed abdomens that exist only in the pages of his Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition unless he has real world experience with a belly distended by an actual human being growing inside of it? How can I be assured that he is capable of being a sensitive and loving step-father if he isn’t already a great father to his own children?
The answer to the question “So, do you have kids?” posed to a man I’m interested in getting to know can actually be an answer to countless others: Ever seen a stretch mark up close and personal? Can you appreciate the beauty of a breast that’s been suckled near constantly for thirteen straight months? Do you know what it feels like to have your heart walk around outside of your body? Is there a human being on Earth you would lay down and die for AFTER you’ve constructed him or her a perfect replica of a volcano that erupts on cue?
I don’t mean to imply that there are no childless men out there that aren’t sensitive to women’s body issues. Any one of those same men would most likely make an excellent father to a woman’s future children and/or a loving step-father to any children she already has. Being childless doesn’t make a man un-dateable, but having a kid or three, especially if they love their Dad to the moon and back, definitely bumps him to the top of my list…just under Employed and Possessing 98% of his teeth.