dating

NAMA WINSTON: "What I learnt after marrying a man with kids, and dating men without them."

Like Snezana Markoski and Alex Nation, last night Bachelorette contestant Stu Laundy, separated father of four, joined the ranks of parent participants whose “grown up” status has proven irresistible to someone who’s ready for a family.

I get it. I was twenty-five when I married a ‘DILF’. Which is also why I get how now, as a divorced mum, younger guys find that attractive. (I won’t call myself a ‘MILF’ – even though it’s in the title of my sex tape. But I’ll get to that in the *FUN PART* below.)

In my youth, I was never interested in guys my own age. They didn’t seem to be grown-ups with direction. I was waaaay too mature for that. I knew what I wanted. I was nineteen when I met my ex-husband, who was twenty-one years older than me, and already a father of two. I liked that he was sensible, established and stable. He loved his kids and took care of them – which of course, is attractive to most women.

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Basically, he was a DILF – and that was a major drawcard.

We were happy for a decade (before we started hating each other). I learnt a lot about love, family, and parenting. I was going to parent-teacher interviews at 22. Dealing with bitchy school mums, and doing readers at night. Organising weekends on and off, joint Christmas dinners, and school holidays. I loved doing it, and made a big deal of it, because I wanted the exes to know I was looking after their kids when they were with us – no wonder those women were usually annoyed with me.

I was so young, and out of my depth, so I’m sure I was a terrible step-mum – but I tried, and I learned a lot. And only one of those kids hates me now, so I guess I did have a fifty percent success rate.

Watching the kids grow up, I learnt a very key thing about parenting: nothing stays the same. Don’t get complacent, or anxious, about the child in front of you, because they will be a different person one day.

That’s reassuring, and terrifying – and something I remember with my own kid, constantly.

After thirteen years (almost my entire adult life to that point) or so being together/married, we divorced, because, you know, that happens. So, there I was, early thirties, a mum to my very own fattie cutie toddler, and single. There’s no sugar-coating it; it was a much simpler life.

I’m not saying this is what it would be like being married to all DILFs – but in my experience, with the choices I made, it was intense. Not having my own children, I had the capacity to give to the situation. I loved it, but it had been hard work. And very complicated.

So, the right decision for me, and for my son, was to not risk getting involved with a man with kids until I took some breathing space.

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*THIS IS THE FUN PART*

For the first time in my life, I started dating guys who didn’t have kids – and they all happened to be younger than me. It’s been a revelation, because I’ve found out the fun way that these younger dudes can offer a lot more than I once thought.

While these youthful men may not have kids, they’re not the kids I thought they were when I was their age. The ones I’ve met are real-life adults, doing adult things like having careers and buying property. In fact, one of them was my twenty-six-year-old landlord. (DM me for deets on that one.)

And just because they don’t have kids, doesn’t mean they don’t understand family life. Not only do they get it, it’s one of the reasons they like me – because, just like I did at their age, they are impressed by a person who is a great, loving parent.

Thank f*ck none of them have ever been here to witness my standard TOTAL SWEARFEST MELTDOWNS on a school morning.

I’ve found younger dudes to be more available, and flexible with their spare time, because they have less family commitments than guys who are parents. Which suits me and the odd hours I keep. (Yes, that’s my discrete way of mentioning booty calls.) But their relative freedom doesn’t mean they spend more time with me – gah, who wants that?! What it means is that they have a life outside of the relationship, and don’t depend on me to be their main source of adult company – which then allows me to have a life outside the relationship, too.

Because I’m an independent woman and I need my space.

And there are the little things. As someone who devours pop culture, I like that they’ve known what The Lonely Island is. That they’re as obsessed with memes as I am. That I don’t have to hear “What is this sh*t?!” when I play Francis and the Lights.

Years ago, one of them taught me to use the eggplant emoji. I gave my book club an explanation of vegetable emojis a few months ago. They were fascinated, and no longer refer to eggplants as aubergines.

So that’s my experience of being married to a man with kids, and dating men without them. The overriding thing I know for sure is that it’s not about age, or marriage status, or kids – what makes things work is compatibility. Because if you like each other enough, and the timing’s right, you can make anything work.

The best a single gal can do is relax and have fun, and be really open to what sort of package that fun presents itself in.

Pun intended. [insert eggplant emoji]

Nama Winston is a writer, whose favourite phrase is "now back to me", and passions include a deep desire for us all to be just bloody nicer to each other. You can follow her on Facebook.

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