James and I met on a snowboarding holiday in early 2011, and he was perfect for my non-committal tendencies.Recently separated from his wife of five years, he was proud dad to a three-year-old boy, and living in his parents’ spare bedroom awaiting a divorce settlement. The prospect of me – a carefree woman not yet 30 – dating a man with kids was met with fear and trepidation by my friends. The only thing she’d previously seen me take responsibility for was which pub we should go to for a night out, and I often got that wrong.
I spent far too long in an unhappy marriage, so when it was over I recognised The One the minute I met her. There’s so much hostility from my embittered ex-wife – it’s like she holds a gun to my head in terms of access to the children. But it’s an ongoing challenge that we’ll only realise the enormity of as time goes on.
However solid the relationship is, I live in fear that my girlfriend will lose patience and one day say, “I don’t need this, I’m gone”.’ The terminology doesn’t help. James’ son and I bonded over a shared appreciation of Star Wars and the kind of imagination that can turn an empty washing basket into a spaceship. ‘If you thought about the energy you have to expend for little or no return when dating a man with kids long term, you would never do it,’ warns Ruth, who was 28 when she got together with Tom, who had a five-year-old son, Jacob.
Most of my friends were settling down, but I had no desire to have children – I’d never felt the maternal pull.
I also had a one-way ticket to South America burning a hole in my handbag.
That it took a child to teach me about growing up is an irony not lost on me.
It is a notable dichotomy that today’s thirtysomethings – born on the cusp where Generation X meets Generation Y – battle with Peter Pan syndrome.Rightly so, it’s his parents who watch him star as ‘third sheep from the left’ in the school nativity.But that doesn’t mean you’re not sat anxiously at home sending ‘how did he do? ‘My boyfriend Evan made it clear from the start that I would always come second to his daughter Lola, and that I wasn’t to tell her off – even when she was rude to me in my own home,’ admits my friend Charlotte, 33, who has her own experience of dating a dad.But I ended up feeling like a frustrated outsider.’ Charlotte and Evan split after five years.‘Selfish as it sounds, I just didn’t want to share him,’ she explains.But, it turns out, I’m pretty good with kids and they’re actually heaps of fun (when you don’t have a hangover). Whether or not you want kids of your own one day is a vital conversation to have early on, according to clinical psychologist Dr Claire Halsey.