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Single dad of four boys: I can’t get a date!

Divorced father says that women are put off by his homemaker role. Dr. Gail Saltz offers advice on finding a new partner.

Q: I am a divorced dad of four boys. I work full time and raise the kids on my own. I cook, clean, and take care of all household duties. I am not Superdad by any means, but I try my best. My ex-wife does not spend any time with our kids or pay any child support.

Women are turned off by my doing all of this and don’t want to date. Do you have any suggestions?

— Bruce in Janesville, Wisc.

A: Believe it or not, there are many women who would appreciate a man as capable as you, and ones as interested in having a family-focused life.

But there are other women out there — and it sounds as though these are the ones you have been meeting — who are threatened by a man who is competent in a traditionally female role. Sometimes, sadly, women often can be their own worst enemies. They are the one who believe, erroneously, that if they are not superior to their mate in the domestic realm, it makes them less of a woman.

That said, you clearly are not following old norms, though men are increasingly involved with the nitty-gritty of parenthood. Whether or not you would have chosen to single-handedly raise four boys, you have risen to the occasion. And any woman who bails after learning about your life is likely not someone you would be happy with in the long term, anyway.

What you need to do is put yourself in the position of meeting women who want what you have to offer. First thing to do is put the word out to friends and colleagues that you are interested in meeting someone — someone who will be comfortable with your life circumstances.

You are unlikely to have success with a young woman who wants a macho, bad-boy type. A better bet is a more mature woman who, for whatever reason, has not had children of her own, but who would embrace having children in her life (and who would be glad they come with a man with the ability to care for them).

Alternatively, a woman with children who already occupy much of her time and attention is likely to be understanding about the demands and responsibilities of parenthood that you face.

In addition to prospects sent your way by friends and coworkers, you need to involve yourself in activities where you are likely to meet such women, such as events for divorced or widowed people. Try things that involve the kids — sports, camp, school — and let their friends’ parents know you are eager to be fixed up. Religious services or clubs that bring together people of mutual interests are also good bets.

While I am not a fan of meeting online — there is often such an overt dishonesty that the breach of trust dooms any relationship from the start — but this is one place where you can be upfront about having four sons, and possibly screen in women who are not averse to such a situation. (And I will forward on any e-mail messages I receive for you.)

Realistically, you face obstacles that go beyond those of being older and unattached. As you know, a woman who wants kids of her own, who asssumes you won’t have more kids, or who thinks the kids suck up time you should instead devote to her, will not be interested.

So it’s important early on to be upfront about how flexible you are. For example, if you are willing to have more children, don’t let her assume otherwise. Many women will assume you don’t want more. But if they are correct, you are better off seeking a woman who is okay with this.

You need not introduce yourself with, “Hi, I have four sons and do/don’t want more children,” but this information is so integral to your existence that it should come out early on, like on a first or second date.

That way, you can say something to put this information in context — like your willingness to have more children, the delight you take in family life, or whatever the case is.

It’s not surprising a date would be nervous about her ability to be comfortable and accepted within a close-knit team of five males. So you need to be especially inviting to help her feel she is not the lone female in a men’s locker room. Show her you have interests beyond what you and your four sons immerse yourselves in. A nascent relationship has to be focused on you two, not exclusively on the kids.

Along with this, make your date feel needed. It’s clear that you are competent to handle the boys on your own, so she needs to know that she would be an enhancement to your life, and that this ready-made family would be an enhancement to hers.

Dr. Saltz’s Bottom Line: To boost your chances of finding a suitable mate, you need to screen in people who embrace the less-than-usual, but also extraordinary, qualities you offer.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.