Sam Wood always wanted a big family. Then he had 4 daughters in 9 years.

This is an edited extract from Parenting in Progress by Mel Wilson published by HarperCollins Australia. Available now.

While I'm not biologically related to my father, he's only ever been my dad. He was only twenty-five when he came into Mum's and my life very early on, and he's always treated me like I'm his. He made even more of an effort to remind me of that when my three siblings came along after he married my mum. He never forgets the anniversary of the day he adopted me, and has been an endless source of support and guidance at every stage of my life. When I would spiral into a dating pit of despair and think, "Why would anyone want me, a single mum?", I'd remind myself that that's exactly what my dad did – marry a single mum – and that worked out pretty damn well for all of us. It gave me hope that someone will love my kids as much as I do, even without the genetic connection.

I think that's why I've always been drawn to Sam and Snez Wood's story. Just like my own dad, Sam has never seen himself as a stepdad. From the minute he fell in love with single mum Snezana on The Bachelor Australia in 2015, he was clear about the role he wanted to play in her nine-year-old daughter Eve's life. "It's almost as though she's always been with me. It doesn't feel like I wasn't there for the first nine years of her life."

Watch: When Sam Wood proposed to Snezana. Post continues after video.

Video via Instagram @snezanawood.

It was actually Eve who first encouraged her mum to go on the reality show that changed their lives. Sam and Snez knew almost instantly that there was something special between them, but the stakes were always going to be higher with a child involved. As they were getting to know each other, Sam was also exploring his relationship with Eve. "I think you learn a lot in your early days as a parent when the kids are little. You learn a lot about your own children and yourself. Then when you meet someone and they're already nine and they become your child, there's a huge amount of sensitivity in making sure that you are not positioning things in a way that's not them... I've always let Eve drive the speed in which our relationship developed. It was very important to me that she dictated the terms, and I was absolutely there for her. She categorically knew what role I wanted to play, but there was no rush on my part."

Introducing a new partner to your child is a big step and one that needs a lot of consideration. You want to be as certain as you can that this person is committed to you before your child forms an attachment with them – you risk more than one heart breaking if things don't work out. It's something I took seriously for that very reason, so I made the decision to not introduce my kids to anyone I dated until I knew that he was someone I wanted in our lives long-term.


For Snez, who openly admitted on the show that she hadn't had many partners since becoming a mum, introducing her daughter to Sam during filming was 'kinda huge'. It was a big step for Eve too, who was understandably protective of her mum when she first met Sam on the show. She cut straight to the chase and asked, "How much do you like my mum out of ten?" He laughed and replied, "About nine-point-four out of ten." It was Snez's brother, Rob, though, who reminded Sam of what he was actually walking into when he asked if he was ready to become an instant dad. "I definitely had a moment where I thought, 'Wow, I hadn't thought of it in that context yet.'"

Since that life-changing moment, Sam admits that he made plenty of mistakes as he tried to work out how to parent a child he'd only just met. "I'd find myself making the wrong decision or even saying, 'Oh, I probably didn't handle that that well.' It's hard when you don't have a warm-up. I was literally thrust into this, and she and Snez were joined at the hip when I met them."

The newly formed trio found a way to make it work. Snez and Eve left their home in Western Australia to move to Melbourne with Sam, and just six months after Snez stepped out of the limousine on the set of The Bachelor, Sam asked her to marry him. "When you know, you know. I love you, Snezana," he wrote on Instagram at the time.

Falling in love and becoming a dad were things that Sam always knew he wanted. In fact, he thought he would be married with three kids before his mid-thirties. So when he found himself single at thirty-five and life hadn't played out as he'd hoped, he started to feel 'disconcerted' and worried that his dream of having a family might never be realised. "It definitely wasn't how I thought things were gonna pan out, you know? I opened a kids' gym when I was twenty-six years old and had kids everywhere. I was king of the kids, so that was a hard job for ten years. The amount of parents that said to me, 'Sam, when are you having kids? Like, you clearly should be a dad.' And I'm like, 'I dunno, one day when I get my sh*t together.' I was never one of these guys that didn't know – I was always sure that I wanted to be a dad. It just hadn't happened yet."


Two years after meeting, Snez and Sam had their first child together, a little girl called Willow. Both Eve and Willow were part of the bridal party when their parents became the second Bachelor couple to say 'I do'. They tied the knot in December 2018 during a picture-perfect ceremony at Byron Bay on the New South Wales north coast. The most memorable moment of the day for Sam was when his girls held hands as they walked down the aisle together to one of his late mum's favourite songs, Here Comes the Sun.

Sam was well on the way to creating the big family he'd always dreamed of when Charlie, another little girl, was born in 2019, and their fourth daughter, Harper, arrived in May 2022. 'People go to me, 'Oh, mate, how do you cope, because you've kind of gone from zero to a hundred so fast. It was Snez and Evie from day one, and snap, you've had three more kids and you've gone from living in a crappy apartment all by yourself to living in a crazy madhouse with a beautiful wife and four kids in what feels like five minutes.'"


Now, with the beautiful wife and four daughters, life sounds exactly how he had hoped it would be. "I always knew I wanted to have a big family, and it just feels right. I can't even imagine life any other way. It's crazy to think that I only became a dad nine or so years ago, to be honest."


So much can change in nine years as a parent. That oft-quoted adage 'the days are long but the years are short' couldn't be more apt for the dad-of-four. You really don't notice the rapid passing of time on the parenting treadmill until one day you stop for a second and realise that while you were rushing from football to saxophone, that baby with their soft new hair and chubby cheeks has been replaced by someone almost your height.


In the blink of an eye, Eve has become a grown woman who knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. While her high-profile parents' life might seem picture-perfect on social media, as with most people, that's just the highlight reel. Outside of the social media spotlight, Sam admits that they've dealt with their fair share of teen angst, but he now feels like they're coming out the other side – with just a slight dent to their parental pride. "When they're sort of fourteen, fifteen, they don't wanna have much to do with you. We were the dorkiest, most uncool people – god, it was the worst when someone came up to us in the street in front of her. You've never seen an eyeroll so big! The sass comes out of nowhere, and I thought, 'Oh my god, what have I got myself into?' I've got three more of them! It's gonna be an interesting time. I might move away to a little island for five years and come back..."


He's onto something. Let me know if you want to join us on an island exclusively for parents of teens (with a free bar, of course). You can check in on your child's thirteenth birthday and check out five years later with your sanity intact – genius. I'm going to presume you all put your hands up and will put in a call to Richard Branson to see if Necker Island is free...

Through those tween years and into her teens, Sam had to work out what sort of role he played in Eve's life. Was he a father figure? A friend? A fun-cle (fun uncle)? A goofy flatmate? All of the above? Ultimately, he decided that their relationship had progressed enough that he was simply her dad. "We had become close enough by her teens that I absolutely treated her exactly like I would my birth daughter. There was no differential treatment or anything like that. You know, tough love and discipline and all that kind of stuff. She's a pretty strong-minded young woman, we bang heads a lot, and I just think, 'You're not getting away with this stuff...' I'm definitely not as hard on Eve as my dad was on me, but I'm strict about manners and rules and basic things that I think will hold her in really good stead as she goes out in the real world on her own. She's growing up so fast, she won't be with us forever, and I just wanna make sure that she's as well equipped to handle this crazy world as she can be."


Watching Eve grow into a young woman seemingly overnight has made Sam cherish the time he gets to spend with his younger girls even more. And while life with three under six is "a lot", he continually reminds himself how quickly time goes. "It gives us a greater appreciation that it's not gonna be long before they're not kids anymore. And as much as it is exhausting because they need you so much, I love that they need you so much. There's something really nice about the juxtaposition of that. We're just soaking it all up."


Since being fast-tracked to fatherhood, Sam has learned a lot – about himself and being a parent. "I've got this thought: you can't really parent wrong. I think if you're trying and you're there and they know you're there, that's 90 per cent of being a great parent, you know? [...] I always find the best moments with the kids are the little things when you least expect it, the quirky little things that they say or the special cuddles or laughs in the car. It's a bit clichéd, but that is what is truly important to me right now. It's absolutely shifted my perspective and I'm very thankful for it."

I can think of four little women who are very thankful too.

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"Accept that you will never be your partner's number one, and that is the way it should be. You matter, but not as much as the kids. They may not want a bar of you, and that can hurt, but it's not about you. Show your love for them through your love for the parent you're with. If you can't add to their lives, do everything in your power to not take anything away. For me, this means seeing a therapist who helps me get up to speed on things that other parents had years to learn through trial and error. Try to lead with love, patience and kindness for yourself as much as the kids."


Parenting in Progress by Mel Wilson. Image: Booktopia.

Parenting in Progress by Mel Wilson is now available for purchase.

Feature image: Instagram @samjameswood + @snezanawood.

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