So you’re with a guy who loves kids and says he wants them? Obviously, those are good places to start. But what about the slightly subtler signals that he’s up to the parenting challenge? We break them down:
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “You look tired—can I make you dinner/give you a massage/do the laundry?” come out of his mouth, that’s a sign he’s attentive and takes initiative, which are biggies when it comes to kids. “Children need attention constantly,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. “There’s the hands-on taking care of children in terms of what routinely has to be done—and then there’s the whole other layer of tuning into where they’re at and what their mood is and what else they might need that you didn’t anticipate or plan for. That level of awareness is really significant.”
Does he hold your hand and stroke your hair? Clearly love your pet? “That shows a lovingness and caring,” says Greer. Plus, it shows his ability to connect on an emotional level to maintain that bond, which is crucial for parents, says Greer.
He Can Handle Stress
Does he shut down or disappear when things (work, the relationship, family stuff, etc.) get sticky? No good. You want a partner who talks through stressors with you, says relationship therapist Rachel Sussman, LCSW, author of The Breakup Bible. Because, fact: Kids are super, duper stressful. You want to have them with someone who can manage the pressure.
He Shares His Food
Seriously. See, a good father is someone who’s generous, not stingy, says Greer. So if you’re out to dinner and he doesn’t even pretend to offer you a taste, then reaches over and grabs something off your plate, that’s probably not a good sign. “That tells you that they’re looking out for themselves and they’re more concerned with taking care of themselves than sharing and reciprocating with you,” says Greer.
He’s in Touch with His Emotions
If he’s comfortable telling you how he feels about you or talking about the future, that’s good, says Sussman. “Then that person usually, when they make the decision to be a parent, they’ll take it seriously. They’ll be able to be up front with you and tell you how they feel if they’re upset about something, if they’re happy about something.”
He’s Down to Shop, Cook, and Clean
You want to co-parent with someone who’s “a true partner in all senses of the word,” says Sussman. If he’s not willing to pitch in now, that could mean trouble down the road.
He Makes Sacrifices for You
Maybe he blows off guys’ night to take care of you when you’re sick or he works overtime so he can take off for your friend’s wedding. These unselfish acts show that he’s flexible and responsive, says Greer, and those are both things you want in a partner and a parent.
If he says he’s going to do something, he needs to actually do it…on a regular basis…without constantly being reminded, says Greer. It’s clear why this is important: You can’t raise a kid with someone you don’t trust to take care of things.
The Two of You Have a Great Relationship
“Assess your own relationship and make sure it’s really solid and really in a good place,” says Sussman. “You’ve got to have the relationship first, because having kids will put a stress on you.” All good on the coupledom front? “If you’re really in love, if you have good communication, if you really respect each other, if there’s a really solid friendship, if you have a lot of fun together, and you both want to have children,” she says, “chances are it’s going to work out really nicely.”