Is he ‘father material’? Signs he'll make a good father (when dating as a single mum)

What you need to know:

  • A child will be concerned about having a new parent so it is not just your happiness but also the child’s, that should be taken into account.
  • Even if you are not prepared to get into a relationship, you can point your child to a responsible man with good moral standing who can be his father figure.

In June 2021, content creator Maureen Waititu said she was taking a break from dating. The mother of two admitted that dating as a single mother of boys was difficult because men fear dating single mums of boys.

Maureen is sailing in the same boat with many single mothers who find it difficult to meet the right man who is ready to take up the responsibility of raising kids.

“There are men who will stop at nothing to get romance, including using a single mother’s kids as bait,” says psychologist Ken Munyua. The man will pretend to like the child and even establish a connection with them, to appear genuinely interested and ready, until sexual intimacy with the mother is achieved.

“I dated a man who seemed really taken by my son, only for that to change after I gave in sexually,” says Juliet Otiende. “He only acted with interest towards my child when he wanted sex. But I was not in an emotional business contract where I had to offer sex for him to love my son,” she says.

According to child therapist Dr. Philomena Ndambuki, a child will be concerned about having a new parent so it is not just your happiness but also the child’s, that should be taken into account. If the child is uncomfortable about the new man in his life, he will let you know by resisting a connection or by behaving strangely when the man is around. If the man is suitable, you can win the child over by explaining the new changes in your life as a way of preparing him emotionally. “This will let the child know that the man who’s coming on board will not take his place in your life,” says Dr. Ndambuki. Share your child’s concerns with the prospective dad before any introductions are done. “Do not expose your child to unnecessary heartache by introducing someone who is not in it for the long run,” cautions Dr. Ndambuki.

Even if you are not prepared to get into a relationship, you can point your child to a responsible man with good moral standing who can be his father figure. “It could be your older brother, your priest, or even a close family male associate,” says Dr. Ndambuki. Before you single him out, ask yourself if he is someone you would wish to have as a father to your child. Also, ask him what he thinks about being a father figure for your child, and only proceed with the introductions if he is comfortable with fostering your baby.   

How to determine if he is a good prospective father

Dr. Ndambuki says that there are some key ingredients that make a good father:

  1. Responsible: Make sure that the prospective dad is accountable and reliable when it comes to children's issues. He should also be able to evoke feelings of security in your child.
  2. Kind and loving: Don’t touch him if he likes to step on people’s toes. Note that you are not looking for someone who will inspire positive qualities in your child – through speech and action.
  3. Financial stability: Let him have some financial muscle to take on the role of a father. He should be aware that being a father includes financial spending. Subsequently, he should be a good planner, ambitious, and with financial foresight.
  4. Faithful: If he keeps his promises to you and the child and sticks to his word, then he is a winner.
  5. Wise: He ought to be wise enough to discern issues of benefit to the child. He should also be patient and understanding in his approach to the child.
  6. Potential: He should portray a genuine capacity for higher family developments. Your child should be able to identify this capacity and be proud of it as it goes a long way in instilling a sense of security.

Could he be a deadbeat dad?

When seeking to date as a single mother, you will want to escape the trap of deadbeat fathers. Here are important things you need to look out for:

Deadbeats are normal men: Do not expect a particular profile stamped on the forehead of a deadbeat dad. Deadbeat dads aren’t necessarily the men struggling with their finances or whose day jobs are hanging in the balance. A deadbeat could very well be the suit and tie guy occupying the corner office. “This is a difficult man to spot,” says Lucia Wahome, a family therapist. “If he approaches you, his good stature, position in society and track record at work may be enough to win you over.”

His age: According to Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist based in Nairobi, one of the key ways to spot and avoid a deadbeat dad is by making the right choice of age in the men you want to date. “Men who are very young or men who are still single at over age 35 are much more likely to run away from their daddy responsibilities,” he says.

Behaviours and characteristics: By keenly studying his behaviours, you can tell if he is a deadbeat dad. “Take caution if he is a high testosterone risk-taker or if he is in any way unreliable,” Dr. Hart adds. “For instance, check if he keeps his promises, whether his phone is often switched off, whether you can accurately tell where he is, whether he has a vague employment history, other men around him seem to look down on him, or if he is always flaking out on your dates.” Further, Wahome says it’s a red flag if your mate is always available every weekend and yet he has a child. “Does he seem to be free during baby fun days when he should be with his child? Is he always ready to have fun every weekend and hardly mentions anything about his child unless you ask?” she poses. “If the answer is yes, terminate the relationship because he’s running away!”

Deadbeat excuses: According to the journal Examiner, if a man who you know has a child says his child was the product of a one-night stand, an unwanted pregnancy, or a friends-with-benefit arrangement as the reason he is yet to establish a sober relationship with his child, take to the hills. “Deadbeat dads will place blame on their child or children’s mother, and create false illusions to distract prospective mates, and wives,” says the journal.

Ask: If you suspect that your prospective mate could be a deadbeat dad, do not hesitate to ask if he has a child. Take note if he answers yes or he is reluctant to say so. Find out if he has a sound father-child schedule, how he interacts with his child’s mother, how often the child is with him, and how updated he is on his or her growing up. If he appears clueless, he is a deadbeat! According to Examiner, you should take note if he appears to blame his child’s mother for his inability to be with his son or daughter. “He could be using his children’s mother as a scapegoat if he claims that he doesn’t see his kids as much as he likes because she doesn’t let him; is in another relationship; is disobeying a court’s visiting rights; or is simply blocking him.”