I wrote this for myself and then decided others might like to hear it too. This is my perspective, you are more than entitled to have your own. I don’t put a stake in the ground on how you go about parenting, but I do on how you show love.
I’m a dad. I love the hell out of my daughter. She’s crafty, laughs really hard, climbs nearly anything (including me), and she loves me back.
My ex and I separated when she was about 3. I took time to move on and then unexpectedly fell in love with a girl I’d known since high school. I hadn’t seen her in a while and she asked me if I’d help her move into an apartment in the city. It was good to catch up and she’d been through a marriage and divorce too. We talked a lot, walked the city, and just vented. It was healing.
Things got more serious, and eventually I was at the point where it was unavoidable to not introduce my daughter and girlfriend to each other. I set the bar and we went at it slowly. She didn’t have kids of her own and was pretty sure she never would, but she loved me and was willing to give it a shot. During this time, my ex and I were still in the thick of it and this whole thing of me moving on and including our kid in it was still fresh. Our conversations were super hostile and at the time her opinions still cut through me. She’d say things like, “A person who isn’t a parent can’t love a child like one who is.” and “She said she never wanted kids. You’re making a huge mistake.”
Cue the wrestling match. In this corner we have my heart, telling me to write all this crap off and feel confident that I know who I’m in love with. In the other corner, we have my stereotypical parent mentality, telling me I’m the father of the only kid I’m probably going to ever have so don’t go irreparably messing her up by not checking off every safe box on the list. It‘s also telling me to keep prepping for the apocalypse, but we won’t go into that right now.
With no clue how to feel, I naturally go around spouting it out to everyone that will listen. I just wanted validation. Then one day, a coworker of mine asked me to join a weekend trip with some of his friends and I was fortunate to meet a guy that was a child therapist. I held it in, but I couldn’t resist and went up to him and said it bluntly: “Can someone who isn’t a parent love a kid like someone who already is?” He said, very calmly, “Yes, of course they can.” He shared a lot of insights and you can believe his opinion really mattered to me then. But not too long after we talked, I was at home by myself and had the stark realization that all of the opinions I had gotten really weren’t making me feel a whole lot better. I was staring out of a window into a sea of stars, realizing I hadn’t ever asked for the opinion that really mattered: my own. I had to trust myself.
Here’s the thing. Caring for someone, big or small, is a lot of work. Anyone you’ve ever loved has taken up some of your time. Your love for them is what makes you feel like that time is worth giving. What I needed to know was if my girlfriend would ever feel like it was worth giving up her time up for my kid. And yes, by the way, you read it right before: She didn’t want kids.
If you’re wondering how that works, I’ve discovered it’s pretty simple: They love you and they love your kid. Saying you don’t want to have kids doesn’t mean you hate them. And it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t be open-minded enough to love someone who has one and make them a part of your life.
Give your partner a chance. They are smart. In this game of love, they drew their cards and kept them. The moment I saw my girlfriend pull up a stool for my daughter so they could cook a meal together was the moment all those shitty things my ex said to me went away. I felt validated that I could trust my gut to make it work in the best way. And I felt even better that I could tell my stereotypical parenting mentality to shut the hell up once in a while.
Plus, there are great perks to parenting with someone who hasn’t had kids. They won’t draw the same lines on what’s practical and will recommend activities you might never try with kids. Have you ever camped in a tent up in the Sierra’s during the winter with kids? We did, and it was worth it. I love camping, but I wouldn’t have thought to try that. So look, I’m not saying go skydiving with your kids, but I’m also not not saying go skydiving with your kids. You get what I’m saying.
The real point is, have a good time exploring. Make use of the time you have. Include the people that want to give their time, judgement free. If you’re willing to teach and tell your child to love anyone, you should be too.