Your girlfriend's finally hooked you up with a brother who's a catch. He's attractive, gainfully employed, has a charming personality -- and all of his teeth. A second date with him is a definite possibility. Then, during dinner, the flowing conversation gradually turns toward kids. His kids. As in the two he has from a previous relationship. Do you:
A) Smile and (genuinely) tell him how much you adore children.
B) Lie and tell him how much you adore children.
C) Reply, "Oh," while mentally cussing out your girlfriend for hooking you up with a "babydaddy."
If you chose A, you agree with the majority of ESSENCE.com visitors who responded to the recent poll, "Would you date a man who has kids?" More than half (53 percent) said "yes"; 21 percent said "no" and 26 percent said "maybe." What's behind so many sisters' apparent willingness to court men with kids?
Shamain Mackey, 24, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, has no problem with the idea of dating a dad -- in fact, she married one. Along with the couple's year-old daughter, her husband has a four-year-old son from a previous relationship. Mackey, a schoolteacher, feels there's no reason to stigmatize a man for what happened in the past, especially if he's a good father. "Once I got to know him for who he was, I fell in love with him and the fact that he took care of his responsibilities," she says.
LaShawn Johnson, 28, a media consultant in Ottawa, Illinois, is also open to single men with kids. "I find that the older I get, the more common it is for people in my age group to have children." The experts agree. Author and motivational speaker Jewel Diamond Taylor says she sees an age difference among women who will or won't date fathers. "I usually hear 'no' from younger sisters -- they want to be the first to have his child," she explains. "Older women are more flexible - with the older men they date, the chances are increased [that they'll have kids]."
Flexibility, at any age, may improve a woman's chances of finding Mr. Right, says Deborrah Cooper, an advice columnist and relationship expert. "The size of the dating pool for a woman in her thirties who insists on finding a man in the same age group with no children is very small," she says. "Why limit one's chances of finding love by having such rigid standards?"
Just say "no" to deadbeats
Women who decide to date men with children must, however, be selective. Faith*, a 32-year-old legal secretary from Chicago, recalls a cutie she met at a friend's wedding. Though he seemed like a winner at first, she later found out that not only did he have two kids he wasn't supporting, but he also hadn't seen them in years. "That's a major turn-off for me," she says.
"The relationship that a man has with his children is really important to many women," says Cooper. Although she acknowledges that there are many fathers who maintain caring, close ties with their children, she warns women to look out for signs that a potential suitor might fall in the "Trifling Babydaddy" category. For example, he's still living with the baby's mother for "the child's sake" -- even after they've supposedly broken up. "If he's no longer involved with her, then he needs to have his own place," Cooper explains.
Another no-no: He drops everything, anytime, to run and do things with or for his child's mother. Or he stays too involved with the babymama's family (often to keep tabs on her). The real clue is his relationship with his child(ren). If he has no relationship and that's his choice, Cooper notes, you may want to seriously re-consider the content of his character.
In the end, sisters don't mind dating a man with kids as long as he's an active, caring father: deadbeat dads making tons of babies they can't support need not apply. So, ladies, be sure to share this with the next brother you meet who shows off a picture of his little Aisha over dinner.
*Name has been changed.