For the one in six parents in Australia who are single, finding love again is a minefield.
Hell, finding love at all is a minefield.
But imagine if you’re searching for that very special person with gorgeous but needy little people in tow. People who don’t always understand that you need love beyond them, who won’t always offer you the space to find and grow it.
Watch the true love stories that will melt your heart. Post continues after video.
Then imagine that, despite the incredible odds, you find that very special person.
And now, beyond almost anything in the world, you want to try and keep them, make them love you. Make them love your kids.
Two years ago, I fell in love. Hard. I was 40, newly separated and had my three daughters aged nine, six and four with me almost full time. The man I desired was 32, with no children and almost no experience of them.
I met Michael at work. He knew I had kids, but they hadn’t come up much in conversation. He didn’t see me as a mum and I was so very often grateful he never saw me in my home life, wiping my youngest’s bottom, frustrated on the school run and exhausted after bedtime.
But if we were to have a future, he would see all of that. Would he still find me attractive? This was a guy who didn’t have to deal with nappies or tantrums, for whom time after work meant a relaxing dinner and a movie.
Could it ever work?
I listened to the dating stories of my single mum friends. They were usually complicated, but the complications often revolved around the parenting demands of them and their beloved. At least they both understood the reality of life with kids.
For me, I knew what Michael and I had was special, and I had faith in our future – but I couldn’t quite picture it. I feared once he saw how demanding the role of a stepdad was, he would bolt.
But while I was nervous, he remained unfazed. “It doesn’t put me off,” he would say.
I introduced him to my four-year-old first. We took her for a walk along the harbour, had a picnic in a playground. I gazed adoringly as he pushed her on the swing, and snapped a photo when he carried her, and she flopped a sleepy head on his shoulder.
With my nine-year-old, it didn’t go quite as smoothly. The three of us had lunch one day at a cafe. My daughter, who knew Michael as my work friend, was in a goofy, silly mood. Michael played along, but I felt on edge. “She wasn’t at her best today,” I told him later.
It was a sentiment I would come to know well – unease. Over the months that followed, I would listen in on conversations between Michael and the girls, jumping in to course-correct if things weren’t flowing, or bounding in to remind the girls to use their manners so as to represent me – and us – in the best way possible.