As any of the 272,000 followers of the Instagram account “DILFs of Disneyland” will tell you, there’s just something about a man with a baby. In fact, the data analysts at behavioral matchmaking site Zoosk recently learned that single dads receive 22% more first messages than those without children.

“Dating single dads” may not be on your bucket list, but it turns out that single fatherhood is a mental shortcut to learning desirable traits about a potential new man. According to Joan Barnard, the Zoosk relationship expert, we’re attracted to dads thanks to a biological assumption that the man is healthy enough to procreate. (Don’t worry, we can blame our subconscious next time we ogle a young dad in the baby food aisle!) Plus, we have very real evidence that another woman pre-vetted him and decided his genetic material was worth passing on.

Part of the allure can be explained by the medium: When you join a dating website, especially one with a reputation for more than hookups, you’re being deliberate about finding a partner and fatherhood generally implies the man is capable of a meaningful relationship. Not to get too Freudian, but dads – the good ones – have the personality traits you’re probably looking for in a boyfriend. They’re patient and kind, says Barnard, plus they’ve learned to be selfless in having to care for someone else. The potential drawback, of course, is that a partner won’t always be able to be the center of attention. (But maybe that’s a good thing!) “I think that anyone could be attracted to a single dad,” Barnard said.

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Katharine,* 31, once dated a divorced father of two. “I found it extremely attractive that he knew what responsibly meant,” she explained. “I had gotten so sick of dating twenty- and thirty-something guys who still partied like they were in college. This guy really had grown-up responsibilities and he acted like it.” Although every other weekend Katharine was not able to see her single dad beau because he was busy with his kids, she could appreciate that he was doing something important. “There’s also something tender about dating a single dad,” she added. “I felt like I got to see more of his softer side because he had kids.”

And of course we can’t write an article about dating dads without acknowledging the physical phenomenon that is … the dadbod. Women across the world (and the web) say they’re drawn to a man with a fuller figure. Barnard explain the allure of a man with softness around his middle — as opposed to gym-honed washboard abs — comes from what those extra pounds represent: a more relaxed approach to our culture’s narrow definition of how we should look. Guys with dadbod value things besides the pursuit of physical perfection. Sure, that thing they value might be Xbox … but for women who are constantly inundated with pictures of Photoshopped bodies, it’s a relief when men feel comfortable in their own skin.

Dating a single dad will not be for everyone — but that just means more for the rest of us.  Happy Father’s Day!

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