So there’s a hot, single dad at work, or you’ve been messaging one on Tinder and are getting ready to meet. If you’ve never dated a guy with kids before, there are a few things you should know before diving in.

1. His kids will always come first

Unless he’s some deadbeat dad (in which case you probably shouldn’t be dating him), his kid(s) will always come first. This means that your dates will likely be scheduled, and sometimes rescheduled, to accommodate his time with his kids and their various soccer games/swim meets/awards ceremonies, etc.  There will be times where you feel a little jealous, resentful, or pushed to the side. This is normal and is something you will need to work on/accept if you want to be in a relationship with a single dad. Pouting, whining, and throwing tantrums over it will only make things worse. I mean, he’s already got at least one kid, he doesn’t need you acting like one too.

2. He needs to set the pace

You’re probably anxious for him to hurry up and introduce you to the kid(s) to see if they like you and you like them. But continuously bugging or harassing him about it is not a good idea. He will introduce you when he’s good and ready and every guy has their own timeline. You can (and should) express a heartfelt interest in meeting them when you’re ready but let him take the ball and run with it at that point. I wouldn’t recommend any elaborate planning on your part or bringing the kids gifts to a first meeting. Just relax and be yourself.

3. He is a packaged deal

You can’t date him without “dating” his kids too. You also can’t break up with him without “breaking up” with his kids. They are a packaged deal. If you don’t like his kids or they don’t like you, you will have a verrrry long road ahead of you if you are going to try to make it work.

4. His baby mama will always be a part of his life

The co-parenting relationship between exes is ever changing and extremely delicate, and your new presence in his life only makes it harder. Do your best to respect her role in his life and the lives of his child(ren) no matter how much you may resent or despise her. We all have a past and she is a part of his that unfortunately, he can’t shake for the sake of the kids. Trash talking, complaining, and rude behavior won’t help anyone in this situation. Do your best to let go of any negative emotions and just enjoy your time with your man and his kids (and enjoy the free babysitting when it’s her turn to take them!).

5. Your weekends will suddenly revolve around kid-friendly activities

Seven-year old’s birthday parties, tackle football games, Chuck-E-Cheese: these are the venues you are likely to start spending your time at once you are in a relationship with a single dad. It’s like you’ve got an insta-family. You, him, and the kids. This can be fun and chill sometimes but eventually, it starts to wear on you. Just ask the chick I observed one table over at the family-friendly pizza place last night. She appeared to be in her late 20’s/early 30’s, and he was a good 10 years older than her. She scarfed down her salad while his FOUR KIDS played arcade games. When the pizza came and the kids swarmed the table she devoted all of her attention to her phone until it was time to go. Fun date, right?

6. Don’t try to be their new mom

After you’ve been together for a while (and especially if the mom is absent, or might as well be), it is natural for you to feel some sense of ownership or responsibility for the kids. They may turn to you for help with their homework or ask you to take them to the park or even try to start calling you “Mommy”. Always try to remember that no matter how much time you spend with them or how much you do for them, you will never be their mom. For whatever reason, the universe decided those children should be birthed by someone else, and you should respect that.

7. Being a stepmom is the hardest job in the world

They say being a mom is the hardest job in the world, but I have to disagree. Being a stepmom is much, much harder. You have been given the responsibility of taking care of children that are not yours on a permanent, ongoing basis. You have grown to love them and know that you have to set a good example for them, but know that you will never be their actual mother. You have a piece of paper that legally binds you to their father but it doesn’t mean diddly squat when it comes to the kids in the eyes of the law in many states (the doctor’s office actually got upset when I filled out my stepdaughters paperwork!) In short, if your ultimate goal is to fall in love with a single dad and marry him, be prepared to be the (sometimes “evil”) stepmom someday.

I hope this article doesn’t scare you away from dating a single dad you really like, because they can be really great. They have already learned what unconditional love really means and tend to be extra caring. But, dating one takes a level of patience and maturity that not everyone possesses, so be prepared for a roller-coaster if you choose to ride that ride!