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Why Dads Make Better Dates

And why I don’t have any regrets about being child-free.

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I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I never really liked kids, even when I was one. I turned 45 last year with nary a pregnancy scare or marriage proposal in all my years. So, somewhere in my 30s, I resigned myself to being child-free and never gave it a second thought.

Until I met Jay.

Jay was smart and funny, the way I like my men, and emotionally expressive, which I liked in general. Jay also had a son, a 24-year-old who seemed to live with his father out of genuine affection rather than laziness or convenience. I listened to Jay talk to his son, show concern about his feelings and listen to him without giving unsolicited advice. When Jay and I were together, he’d only pick up his phone if his son called. And for a while, the way Jay treated his son made me wonder about having kids with him.

Then I found out Jay had a vasectomy.

To be honest, my heart did sink a little. My first thought was disappointment that we couldn’t make a baby that would have his gray eyes and my kinky hair. That was the selfish incentive for parenthood, the part where you want to contribute your DNA to a new person so that your genes live on.

My second thought was the realization that I didn’t really want Jay to father a child for me, but rather, that his parenting style reflected what I was looking for in a romance.

That sounds a bit strange, I know. Let me explain.

The conversations Jay had with his son showed healthy parenting but also general emotional intelligence and honesty. He gave his kid independence while being available for him when necessary. He encouraged openness and communication and took the words, “You can tell me anything,” seriously. I knew that Jay and his son talked extensively about the younger man’s sexuality. That fact showed me how supportive Jay could be and how he worked to understand concepts that were foreign to him in order to be there for his child. Open-mindedness is a must-have in my romantic relationships because I find any bigotry distasteful and unattractive. I also have bipolar disorder, which requires a partner with a wide emotional bandwidth and a capacity for patience and understanding. Jay exhibited all of my requirements in his conversations with his son.

After Jay, I dated another man with kids and a vasectomy: Miles. Miles had daughters, and he treated them with respect and encouragement. They knew about his deepest feelings, including his experience of divorcing their mother. In showing me that he could be vulnerable with his children, Miles demonstrated that he would be a partner who didn’t rely on stereotypes about how men had to be strong. I believed that he’d be a man who’d cry in front of his woman and considered it a sign of strength, rather than weakness. Miles did actually cry in front of me once, and I felt honored to be trusted with his emotions in that way. We didn’t last either, but I continue to seek out sensitive men who don’t hide their feelings behind their masculinity.

Dating these good dads showed me what good parenting looks like, and how I could look at a man’s relationship with his kids to see if he would be supportive, caring and communicative as a romantic partner. I have no regrets about not having kids, nor about not having a coparent relationship. But I still enjoy seeing my friends and lovers interact with their children and seeing them exhibit the expressiveness and emotional health to nurture all of their relationships.