parent opinion

'I wasn't prepared for the mental load of dating someone who also has kids.'

My partner and I don't currently live together. We each have children of our own and, although we try to align our schedules, there's quite a bit of effort involved in getting time together. We want to make sure we get time to hang out together with all our children but also get some of that all-important alone adult time.

Right from the start, we knew this would be a bit of a juggle. But we really like each other so agreed to each try our best to make it work.

Twelve months in, the results are patchy.

It's not just a scheduling issue.

As with any case where there are kids going between houses, work schedules and individual social activities, we are not getting as much one-on-one time together as we would like.

We're also not getting as much 'family' time in as we would like. With a blended household somewhere in our future, this is really important. Our kids do all get along, but I am really keen for us to spend more time hanging out together before we all cohabitate. It's my way of trying to encourage more of a 'warm transfer' rather than dumping everyone into a Brady Bunch ice bath.

Scheduling is partly to blame for our limited family time. But in fact, the main culprit is that the energy required to facilitate more family time has become a sudden and unexpected addition to our already overflowing mental loads.

Watch: The movie Blended on what a blended family looks like. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

I don't need another job, thanks.

Relationships take work, we all know that. It becomes really obvious when someone stops putting effort into keeping a relationship healthy and thriving. Despite our limited time together alone, my partner and I are actually pretty good at keeping our relationship alive. We chat on the phone when we can't see each other in person, and we balance our time together with socialising with friends and snuggling on the couch with just the two of us. For me, this was the bit I was prepared for when deciding to pursue a serious relationship with another single parent.

I was not prepared to have to add a whole new set of family logistics to my plate.

For me, it's like I now have two families. One is me and my daughters, the other is me, my daughters, my partner and his children. Until we fully blend ourselves, there aren't many efficiencies to be made. So, it literally feels like my family management responsibilities have grown to an unreasonable size overnight.

The reason I feel like it's almost entirely on my shoulders is complicated. Firstly, I will recognise my default position is to 'just do it myself'. This has definitely been exacerbated by my partner's tendency to 'assume you're busy unless you tell me you want to hang out'. 

Additionally, I am a planner. I don't need my whole life mapped out but if everyone is coming to my place for dinner mid-week, let's lock that in on the weekend so I can factor it into my schedule and grocery shop. My partner is a 'see how we feel' kind of guy who will commit to a loose plan but often won't initiate the finalisation of details until the hour is upon us.


What have we got ourselves into?

On one hand, I feel lucky that we are in a position to identify these things before we're all living together. What fun to dump our families together and then work out that we have completely different approaches to household management! I'm also really grateful that my partner and I have excellent communication, so have started to call this out as an issue and worked out a plan to change things going forward.

But it really has got me thinking.

Does anyone consider the mental load of being in a relationship where there are multiple households to factor in?

I certainly knew there would be extra logistics to manage, but I did not clock that this actually translates to increased domestic labour, which adds significantly to the mental load.

Do we really know what we're saying yes to when entering a relationship after divorce, where kids, schedules and time are split across multiple households?

We've got five households to consider — mine, his, my ex's, his ex's and my ex's new partner's. Six if you count my ex's new partner's ex's!

So, when one person in the relationship is taking on all the responsibility for planning and organising the 'new family' time together, before cohabitation occurs, well, it's a lot. And definitely not something I was prepared for. If it wasn’t for the open communication my partner and I have, this could easily develop into resentment, which we know is a real knife in the side of any relationship.

What are we doing about it?

I'm really new to this whole dating someone who also has kids caper, so am by no means an expert on the best way to navigate this. But we have decided to take the bull by the horns and implement a couple of things to try and even the playing field a little.

Scheduled, regular dinner together.

For us, this looks like gathering at my place on the same night each week to share an easy meal, give the kids some time to play together and for my partner and I to chat. This started out being something I was handling on my own (planning and making the meal, cleaning up afterwards, etc) but we soon shifted to a more balanced model. Now he brings the food, I set the table and we both do the washing up.


Assume the answer is yes.

This is in relation to us each assuming the other person is too busy with their kids/has other plans/wouldn't want to join an activity on the weekends. The result being that we just wouldn't ask, and then realised we missed an obvious opportunity to spend time together. Now we each assume the other person is free and keen, and we ask the question every time. It doesn't always work out but often it does.

Include each other in family social plans.

Our relationship is at a stage where we are introducing each other to our individual friendship groups, and we have now started extending this to our kids. Where one of us is off to a social event with other families, we have started inviting each other (and our kids) along too. It's great for incidental time together and our kids get the benefit of more kids to play with — everyone wins!

We're still working all of this out as we go, and I am on a steep learning curve! It's way out of my comfort zone but at the same time, it feels really nice to be part of another family. It's been just me and my girls for years now, and while I feel protective of our peace, I can see that our future has a lot of love in it.

I wasn't prepared for the mental load of dating someone who also has kids, but I'm doing my best to prepare for a future as a blended family.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Canva.

Calling all beauty & fashion lovers! Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!