Dear Luv Doc,
I have been dating a woman for a couple of months. She is a great listener, fun to be around, and she puts up with my crazy work schedule. There is only one problem. She has two kids and almost every time I see her, she wants to include them. I don’t mind it every once in a while, but after pulling a couple of long shifts, sometimes I just want to relax and have a beer and not have to worry about keeping her kids entertained. Is that so wrong? I don’t have anything against her kids; I would just like to have some down time occasionally. I know she really wants her kids to get to know me and like me, so I am not sure if I should say anything because I don’t want her to get the wrong idea. Should I keep my mouth shut and limit the time I spend with her and the kids, or tell her I want to spend at least half that time alone with her?
—Bushed RN

That sounds like a difficult situation Bushed. Maybe you could keep her kids entertained by having them bring you beers? You would be amazed what kids can accomplish with a little training and a thick roll of one dollar bills. I may or may not be speaking from experience when I say that you have to drink a lot of beer to keep even the most modestly energetic children entertained. You’d be better off teaching them how to make specialty cocktails, but that is a whole other can of worms.

I understand though. Kids can be exhausting, and my bet is that if your girlfriend is a single mother, she feels this more acutely than just about anyone on the planet. She might even see the time she spends with you as an opportunity to ease some of her own parenting burden. After all, it sounds like you already knew she was a package deal, and if you didn’t initially, you certainly do now. However, thinking you know what you’re getting into is not the same as actually knowing what you’re getting into. I think about that every time I see Jeb Bush in a debate. Poor guy. Can’t everyone just let him be Governor of Florida?

My point here is that while you might initially have been receptive to spending time with your girlfriend’s children in theory, reality has shown you that you have a threshold. I don’t think it is healthy for your relationship to keep that threshold a secret. In fact, I would be willing to bet that if you honestly and clearly communicate your limits to her, you might be surprised by her ability to sympathize with your situation. It’s also possible that she might tell you to suck it up and deal with it. After all, she has to be a parent every single day.

The good news is that you don’t. You have the ability and the opportunity to walk away from this situation and have as much peaceful down time as you want, but my bet is that you’re looking for more of a best-of-both-worlds situation. You might actually get it, but you won’t if you don’t talk to her about it. So, swing for the fence, and good luck.