Q: I'm dating a guy with a 2-year-old daughter. We've been dating for three months. Most of the time they spend weekends at my condo. I don't always agree with how he parents her. Should we set some form of "structure" in dealing with her as a couple? I am starting to feel overwhelmed.
A: After three months this guy has his kid at your house every weekend and you are wondering if you should "set some form of structure in dealing with her as a couple"? Pardon my frustration, but this is all backward. Granted, he may be new to dating, but he's had two years to get used to parenting. The guy shouldn't be showing up at your home with his child after only three months and put you in the position of organizing his life. He should have had the game plan for how he will raise his child in place before he called you for the first date.
You are feeling very much like many who date people with children and don't have kids of their own — overwhelmed — and good for you for admitting it and realizing something has to change. Know this, however: This child is not a pet. She's a living breathing person who needs structure, love, patience and understanding.
Differences in parenting techniques are often deal breakers for new couples. (Ex-Etiquette rule 4 for those who do not have children, "Figure out your deal breakers.")
If you continue as you are, I predict that either you will fight about parenting his child, or when you're together he will relinquish the parenting responsibilities to you. Here's my suggestion: Leave the child with her mother or other caregiver on his dates with you. If he can only see you when he has his daughter, he needs to change his schedule — with you. His responsibility is to his daughter first.
When the two of you figure out if you want to be together exclusively, that's when you put a plan in place for how you will approach raising this child together while co-parenting with her mother. That's when you have that conversation about "structure when dealing with the child as a couple," because then you will be a couple. Right now you're just dating, and he's being lazy.
E-mail Jann Blackstone at firstname.lastname@example.org.