My father is in his early 50’s and I am 19 years old. He and my mother split about six years ago, and he has begun to date women who are only a few years older than I am — young women who could easily be my peers in the classroom.
My dad is a wonderful guy, but when it comes to women he’s very superficial. He doesn’t see any problem with dating very young women, and tries to push me into “befriending” each girlfriend. He will also sometimes make me baby-sit for their children — the children they had at 16 or 17 — and tell me that it’s a “bonding experience.”
Most of these women are ditzy and dumb. I am a serious-minded academic and would prefer not to interact with these people, and I would definitely not want to have one of these women as a stepmother.
How can I explain to my father that the age of his girlfriends makes me uncomfortable, and I would rather not be forced to “get along” with them?
Embarrassed in Elmont
It sounds like your father has been going through a rough time. He is not the only man to go through such a time – in life we call this a “mid-life crisis.” Because you are much younger and a “serious-minded academic,” you see the “dysfunction” clearer than he does. Divorce/separation is a hard thing for all, and trying to start over and find oneself again in their 50’s can be VERY challenging. At such an age, the first thing that might enter one’s mind is: “Who will think I’m attractive and desirable at this age?” He is in a state of panic, and doesn’t realize it. Younger women showing interest in him is a HUGE boost for his ego. Not only does it make him feel wanted (which we all need to feel), but to some extent is keeps him attached to the youth he is afraid of losing.
Your father is an adult – he is free to do whatever he wants, and free to date whomever he chooses. You cannot tell him how to live his life. BUT you don’t have to play third wheel here…it’s awkward! At 19, you are now a young woman, and this is a great opportunity to show your father that you can make your own choices as well. Let him know that you love him beyond words, but you are not a babysitter – you are his daughter. Life is about setting boundaries. Let him know that you don’t mind an occasional update on his dating life, but his dating life seems like a revolving door – one woman after another – and it’s unfair to both you and him to have to adjust to a new woman every time you get used to a different one.
Set your boundaries. You are an intelligent woman for 19. Tell him you don’t want to be involved in his private life until he believes for sure she is someone he thinks he will marry. Tell him not to force you to be these women’s friends – you are quite capable of deciding who you want to be friends with, and pushing you to do so only builds resentment.
Lastly, let him know that he and whichever woman he dates are adults, and if they want to go out and have fun, they can find a babysitter. Give him more time, and he will eventually realize what he is doing…and if he doesn’t, and he truly finds a woman whom he wants to marry, then he is entitled to do so. But you are entitled to be yourself, and be the daughter! You will be by his side because you love him, but you don’t have to tolerate being in the middle anymore!