I’m not one to brag, but allow me to gloat for a while. I went on a date last night. It was with Eliza from Adelaide. Eliza is my age, but she’s lively, chatty, wears cool clothes and loves ‘young’ music. If anything serious comes of our dates, Eliza may well party me into an early grave.
But we need to negotiate a few big hurdles before we get anywhere near that far. According to Eliza, there’s my taste in music, my dress sense, my dancing and my inability to be coherent after two glasses of wine. To be fair to Eliza, sometimes I struggle to be coherent before wine.
According to me, there’s the fact that Eliza would have bragging rights over me whenever the cricket’s on.
None of those hurdles, except for maybe the last one, is insurmountable.
The bit I will spend more time worrying about is whether Eliza will get on with my children. Would they like her? Would she like them? What would she say when I inevitably phone her and tell her I can’t come out to play because Boy One is ill, or because I’ve got to take Boy Two to football?
You see, I’m a single dad.
Or to put it another way, I’m a dad with significant childcare responsibilities who would very much like not to be single for ever.
I separated from my wife just over a year ago. She has some health issues which, from time to time, prevent her from being the mother that she would otherwise be. Our two teenage boys spend much of their time with me.
I love my boys to bits. I love them being with me, but I also miss adult conversation. In fact, with my boys being teenagers, I miss any conversation that doesn’t sound like a grunt.
My days are filled with domestic chores, from explaining the point of soap through to washing school uniform. As an added bonus I even iron it sometimes. I supervise homework and I break-up the fights. I probably start some too.
Occasionally, when I fancy a break from the routine and can find a respite carer (the boys won’t tolerate ‘baby-sitter’), I engineer myself a night out.
To start with, I wasn’t very active on the dating scene during these occasional nights out. All too often I would end up drinking with my married mates. But gradually my need for the odd bit of intimacy, rather than just hearing about my mates’ intimacy with their respective wives, pushed me to reconsider my stance.
It took me a while to convince myself that I was allowed to date again. I didn’t want my boys to think I was betraying their mother. Or, worse still, trying to replace her.
Being someone who likes to build a consensus before I act, I canvassed the views of the people who mattered most to me before I started dating.
‘You shouldn’t be dating yet,’ my mother offered determinedly, ‘it’s far too soon.’
‘You haven’t been dating yet?’ my friends asked incredulously, ‘has it fallen off?’
‘You shouldn’t bother,’ my sons mocked cruelly, ‘no woman will want you.’ Thanks boys.
In the end, a few months ago I chose to ignore my family’s advice and braved my first date. It was with Claire from Essex. She was attractive and very intelligent. Probably too intelligent for me.
We went out three times together. We got on well. I was thinking of inviting her round to dinner with my boys, but I suddenly had a vision of awkward silences and children bolting their food down before running as fast as they could from the table. She was a womanly woman, into make-up, fake eyelashes, enhancements and nail polish. My sporty boys wouldn’t have known what to talk to her about.
In the end, I opted not to continue seeing her. My mates called me an idiot.
I had discovered that dating after kids is a different world from dating before kids. No longer does my date have to impress my mother over Sunday lunch before the relationship becomes serious. Now, I care more about whether she impresses my children.
What are the implications of this for me going forward? I will probably end up dating a young-sounding cool woman who doesn’t do rules and discipline. Someone who likes ‘alternative’, whatever that means. Someone from a cool place.
Someone like Eliza from Adelaide.
Ben Adams is the author of Six Months to Get a Life, the not autobiographical at all tale of Graham Hope’s struggle to come to terms with life after divorce. Will he get over his ex? Will he continue to be a great dad to his kids? More importantly, will he ever have sex again?
You can download a free extract of Six Months to Get a Life here: http://nonbeige.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Ben-Adams-Six-Months-to-Get-a-Life-Extract-One.pdf