Last spring, Mike's wife and our kids' stepmom, Sherry gave some advice to a reader, Kelly, who felt like "just the sideline girlfriend" in a relationship with a co-parenting dad who was at times rather too close for comfort with his ex.
Recently, Alisha, another reader who is dating a devoted co-parenting dad, responded to what Sherry wrote, and asked for advice as she wonders if there is room in her boyfriend's life, and heart, for her...and for any kids they may have together:
I have really appreciated your willingness to share your story, and provide an alternative to many less-peaceful stories I hear. Because you have shared my situation so closely, I ask for your advice.
I am dating a fabulous man with two little kiddos (son, 5, and daughter, 7) from a marriage that ended three years ago. It was a rough marriage, and a rough divorce, and my man is still smarting from it a little bit. To his ex's credit, she has been supportive of my relationship with her children's father- I'm sure it helps that she is re-married- and there has been no real tension between us other than a little awkwardness.
Personally, I am 29 and have never been married nor had children, and, also coming from a divorced family where dad was absent (and Mom is STILL seething), it is very touching to me that my boyfriend is a devoted dad with 50/50 custody. Admittedly, it is also difficult for me to understand. While I want the best for his kids (after all, I've been in his daughter's shoes) it's hard for me to hear him say, bluntly, "My kids will always come before you." Going into a marriage (which we're talking about) for the first time, I'm sure you held the same hopes I have have, of being cherished as a companion and confidant, and wondering if this desire died for my boyfriend with his first marriage. I fully hope to have children of my own (and so does he, he tells me), but I can't help but worry that when he says his children come before me, that his first two children will come before mine. As I said, I want his kids to have happy, loved lives, but isn't there room for more? Would it be fair for me to bring children into a marriage where they could be getting ... emotional leftovers from their father? How can I bring up these concerns to my boyfriend and help him understand that I want his devotion to his children to continue, but also want to know there's more room for me and my hopes and dreams than just the empty side of his bed?
Read on for Sherry's response: