Your sweetie’s and your kids aren’t similarly accomplished

Here’s a recent question from one of our regular guy readers. I thought you might have some suggestions.

There are usually inequalities when you are dating. One person has a more successful career. One person is better at interpersonal skills, and the other is better at technical skills. Differences that makes life interesting and the world go around.

I have accomplished kids. All of them will graduate from college, and have the potential for decent careers. They have their flaws, but are typical middle class, suburban, kids. The kind of kids where you can share their accomplishments when friends are talking about their kids.

I’m getting to know a woman who I think may be someone special. She seems like a decent middle-class person, but has made some bad choices in men — philanderer, alcoholic, etc. However, her kids are a lot less successful than mine. One had a promising military career until a genetic predisposition to alcoholism reared its ugly head. The younger two are content to just get by in life. In talking with her about her past relationships, she mentioned wanting the American Dream: husband, house, and kids.

We are both past the having babies stage, but I wonder about the inequality of our families. All the kids are old enough that they won’t be living together. But, I just started wondering if the inequality will bread resentment. I can provide a husband and a house. But for kids, we will have to play the cards that have already been dealt.


While I don’t have kids, that won’t stop me from having an opinion!

If you do become connected with this woman, you can’t help but hear about her kids and sharing about yours. At some point, they will meet each other. If she wasn’t secure that she did the very best job she could in parenting and admitting that some of how kids turn out is a crap shoot, I imagine she’d feel a bit jealous of your kids’ accomplishments.

If she does show any feelings of inadequacy or jealousy and they are unabated, it will ruin the relationship. However, even two parents with accomplished children can have issues about one-up-manship. If you decide to continue seeing her, you have to be conscious about not oversharing about your kids and offering advice about hers. Let this unfold as you build trust and confidence with each other. And wait until she asks you for advice on her offspring.

Readers: what do those of you with children have to say on this issue?

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14 responses to “Your sweetie’s and your kids aren’t similarly accomplished”

  1. Paula Avatar

    I totally understand the situation having been in a similar position myself. As a parent we truly want the best for our children and for them to succeed in life, but once they have grown up, our job of ‘raising’ them is done. We can only hope that they turn out to be upstanding citizens and that they have a happy life. If one person’s children outshine the others, really, the truth is, one cannot and SHOULD not compare them. They all are people with their own talents to share and are here on earth as a gift, not a possession nor trophies to live vicariously through. If her children have made poor choices or have addictions, the only thing you can do is be there for her, support her and listen to her when she needs a ‘rock’, but otherwise you cannot parent adult children, but you can try to befriend them. If that doesn’t happen, it should not cause a rift between yourself and the lady. As long as your relationship is strong, the differences between the children are just that, differences and it should not matter. We have to take people as they are. Once your relationship grows and matures, I am sure she will take to your children too and feel the pride you have in them as their ‘friend’. So in other words, keep the differences out of the relationship, but DO be proud of your children and she will be proud to be part of such a nice family. It means a lot to be part of that strong dynamic, one that she has not had the ability to be part of and has missed. This may do her children good too, seeing how well adjusted your offspring are and maybe their example will assist them in their own life goals.
    This can be a very good thing if you look at it in a totally positive light.
    All the best.

  2. Anna Avatar

    Having children who vary so much could be a challenge unless the two of you have a solid strong relationship and keep away from commenting or interfering in each other’s children’s lives. As Paula said, being there for her for moral support if she has difficulties with her grown children. While one parent should not have to hide the fact that his children are doing well, and is entitled to a little bragging now and again, I would minimize it around her as she may be a bit sensitive to that. No doubt she is struggling with her kids, even though they are grown and it would rub salt in the wound to hear his are doing so well all the time. My boyfriend and I have two girls of similar ages, both in middle school and poles apart in personality. While mine is academic and studious and the top of her class (having already skipped a year) she is quiet and introverted and I worry about her being so quiet. His daughter seems to always be on trips to the principal’s office (minor harmless infractions at this stage) but is gregarious, chatty and charming, and great at art. But I do play down my daughter’s academic achievements when we are together (sometimes I think I brag about her to everyone else to compensate for that!) Everyone has their own set of talents, and while this man’s kids are doing well, it would serve his relationship better if he plays that down a bit.

  3. Mitsy Avatar

    “I’m getting to know a woman who I think may be someone special. She seems like a decent middle-class person, but has made some bad choices in men — philanderer, alcoholic, etc. However, her kids are a lot less successful than mine.”

    OK, maybe I’m reading a lot in between the lines here, but he’s only getting to know her. It isn’t like they are close to marrying or moving in together. Many of us have made some bad choices as far as dating goes, but I have to wonder if her kids’ lack of achievement is due to the fact that she herself is not a person of much achievement. I sense a better than thou attitude by the guy. Sometimes differences attract people to each other but sometimes they don’t keep people together if their backgrounds are so totally different from one another.

    Anything is possible, but I would urge this guy to think long & hard before he got too serious with this woman. Sure, the kids won’t be living together, but how tolerant is he going to be when her alcoholic son continues to have issues? At some point, that is going to create problems. I say proceed with caution.

  4. Cathy J Avatar

    From a coaching, teaching, even friendship perspective, I straight away think of stopping those habits generationally. What do I mean by this? By changing my own behaviour eg regarding co-dependency, I am able to lead by example. Co-dependency takes many forms, eg not all us have been in long term relationships with an alcoholic or gambler, however most of us at some time have had our own actions curtailed by the problem of another – eg sickness of a child, pandering to a mother’s fears especially as she ages… So in fact if we look most of us have had a time where we have been co-dependent or the dependent.

    Recently I watched video teachings on this topic and realised that I too, unconsciously had gone through a time of being a co-dependent (as mentioned above the dependency varies and definitely can be an addiction even to work, being right, sport…). I learned so much, then I was able to share with close friends. Not preaching to them but mentioning it and if they asked for more information, I was able to supply it.

    This is a roundabout way of dealing with things and I am not saying it always works, however to improve yourself and hopefully becoming an example where others ask you about it. Perhaps over time this influence does make a difference and those in our sphere of influence can also begin to look at the world with new eyes, seeing different patterns or behaviours modelled. This is working in my own family.

    In community development this is one sure way to impact a community. For example, by teaching and training the mums, youth see a new way of doing things and begin to model that new behaviour (the most common skills requested were relationship skills!). Over time leading by example is the only way to go to effect real change, especially overcoming generational issues.

    Also if you look at your own family, bridges of similarity will be there. Everyone has issues, some just hide it better than others. Perhaps your family (as with mine) has an addiction to work and being productive. Empathy creates bridges.

    Apologies, as this could all have been said better but hopefully you get the idea. I honestly see this type of approach as a win-win, over the long term.

  5. OFD Avatar

    You have been great parents, made your kids independent enough………now, it’s time you concentrate on yourselves. Think and be happy with each other and let the kids move on with their own lives. Don’t waste time in comparing whose are more accomplished, yours or hers…………….be happy with each other, that’s the key.

  6. Carly Avatar

    Loved this article! I don’t have kids but I want them. It’s so interesting to think about your kids as having to be accomplished. I guess that makes sense though – you have children and you want them to do things so you are proud of them.

  7. Mitsy Avatar

    OK, I guess I got a bit lost with Cathy’s post and how it relates to the letter, but overall some good info.

    Related to the original post though, I believe there is more to the story than what we’re reading. I’m sensing that the letter writer doesn’t feel as matched to this woman as he originally thought. The differences in their kids and how they’ve turned out is a part of the equation whether anyone wants to admit that or not. It doesn’t say if the woman in question is successful or not. It doesn’t say if she’s educated or not. I’m guessing that perhaps she’s not and the letter writer is second guessing his choices because they have such different background. It’s one of those letters where I wish more details were provided or at least the guy writes in again with an update. Too many variables not known to say for sure.

  8. Cathy J Avatar


    Thanks for the feedback – I felt the same writing it – thus the last para.

    In short, none of us are perfect. We all have issues, some are just more hidden.

    The kids on the surface may not have much in common but then they might get on well. They are not dating each other so it doesn’t really matter!

  9. K Avatar

    I wouldn’t worry about you different kids’ “accomplishment levels”. The funny thing is, in 10 years they may have switched places!

    Burn out, job loss, or divorce can sometimes do a number on the “golden boys/girls” who looked like they “had it made” early on, while late bloomers can mature and really turn out well in the end. At least that’s the way it turned out for me and my siblings…

  10. SB Avatar

    To some extent, one’s children *can* reflect one’s values. It’s not a perfect correlation. But, for example, if my children are super-religious, there’s at least a decent chance it’s because I raised them to BE super-religious. And potentially it means that *I* too am super-religious.

    I’m guessing it’s not really the children themselves that bother the author but rather “what it all means”.

    Try to figure out if there actually is a potential difference in values. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Maybe you can figure out how to deal with the difference in values, maybe not.

  11. EB Avatar

    My belated 2 cents: The first phrase that struck me was “a decent middle-class person, but has made some bad choices in men — philanderer, alcoholic, etc” If I’m beginning a relationship w/ someone their past is relevant – the choices they made, how they handled them, why I’m drawn to that person, etc… So I, like some of the other folks responding, may be reading too much between the lines but I think there are issues to address/questions to ask before worrying about the accomplishments of the kids. Talking/worrying about the kid’s issues may be (or become) a manifestation of the issues or concerns you two have about each other.

    Re the kids – the people that may be total basket cases, or brimming w/ potential today, may be at the opposite end of the spectrum in 20 years. An alcoholic can get sober and be a fantastic success, a bright, accomplished college kid can fall apart, people continue to grow up well in adulthood, etc… If they’re adults and you’ve both done your best, and are able to be respectful of everyone and appreciative of something in each child, then I’m not sure you should be worrying beyond that at what sounds like a fairly early stage of this relationship.

    Good luck!

  12. William Avatar

    I think it’s important to remember that human beings are much more than just their accomplishments.

  13. MT Avatar

    I am 8 months out of a divorce after a 25yr marriage. I entered the dating scene with an open mind on dating…to see what was out there. I have found a single mom that i have fallen in love with, she has a 6 yr old daughter. I have raised 2 sons that have left home and i now have a grandson. I am increasingly having doubts about whether this is what i want for my future. I spent 24 yrs devoted to my children, running from work to their sporting events, hurrying home from work to spend time with my family and always being there for them when they needed me. My girlfriends daughter is a beautiful little girl that tells me that she loves me all the time.I do not want to hurt either of them, i’m in love but i only have one life to live and dont want to sell myself short either…..I recently told my GF that if she was looking for her next husband or a father for her daughter that maybe i wasn’t the right guy for her. At the sametime i cant read the future and dont know how i will feel later. She has told me that she loves me and knows that i have alot of fears…..I’m confused and dont know what to do!!

  14. Mark Avatar

    I had a similar situation — I was dating and was close to a woman with a five year old. My kids are basically grown. Worse yet, this woman’s ex lived out of state so she had the child 100% of the time. We didn’t even have any weekends off together.

    Ultimately, the dealbreaker wasn’t the kid but this woman’s anger. The child was a big barrier though.

    I think ultimately if you see the child as a problem, she’s a problem. I don’t see time changing that. You’re looking at 6-7 years of needing a sitter to go out, and 10-12 years of driving this child around.