As Fabulous introduces our first baby – go us – we celebrate Father’s Day by helping three more single dads to find love. Could you be their soulmate?
By Caroline Benjamin
Gurgling happily next to his father Rhys Williams, six-week-old Freddie has no idea of the incredible story of love, fate and small matter of the hand of Fabulous behind his birth.
Four years ago, Rhys was grieving, after losing wife Virginia to breast cancer in June 2007, aged 46.
“Life was on hold,” Rhys recalls. “I was bringing up our one-year-old daughter Ruby, and I couldn’t imagine ever meeting someone else.”
But then a friend told Rhys, 42, from Luton, that Fabulous was looking for single dads for a dating feature in 2009.
“A long time had passed and I thought: ‘Why not?’. It’s not easy to meet people when you have children. I was amazed when 20 women emailed to say they were interested.”
One of those was Debbie Robinson, 40.
“What’s strange is we’d actually met, as she lived in the same town as me. She said she was moved by my story and was keen to go on a date. I was nervous walking into the bar on that first date, but there was an instant attraction. We were totally open with each other. As well as being gorgeous, she was a caring, loving person. It felt like fate and we got together.”
Fast-forward to September 2011, and Rhys and Debbie tied the knot. And the icing on the cake was having their first child together this May, a beautiful little boy called Freddie.
“Now I’ve got another woman to spoil me on Father’s Day and a little boy who I can’t wait to hear call me ‘daddy’,” smiles Rhys. “I hope these guys will be as lucky as I’ve been.”
Rob says: “My dad died when I was young, so my mum raised my sister and me on her own. Because of that, I was determined that my own marriage would last forever, so it was a massive blow when it ended suddenly two and a half years ago.
My ex didn’t want to hurt me, but admitted she’d gradually fallen out of love with me. I was heartbroken. I went overboard trying to make things better again, but it was too late. You can’t make someone love you. Within a month I had moved out.
We’d been together for 16 years and married for 12, so it was a huge change. While it’s hard enough moving on from a partner, the idea of missing my daughter’s bedtimes was even worse.
Sitting down and breaking the news to Olivia, then seven, was heartbreaking. She was shocked, and seeing her cry was awful.
I took the split badly. At first I wasn’t very nice and was very bitter. I spent a year basically going off the rails.
Eventually I realised I was losing friends, and it shocked me into sorting myself out. I chilled out a lot, and started talking to my ex again. Now we get on well and I see Olivia every other weekend and a couple of times in
the week, but of course I miss her when she’s not here.
I haven’t had any serious relationships since the split. I guess my social life has slowed down, as my daughter is my number-one priority. Last
year, I actually went on a few dates with my first school girlfriend. We live nearby and bumped into each other in the street. At the time I found it quite hard to tell my daughter that I was going on a date, but luckily she was happy for me and even helped me pick out clothes to wear!
However, the fledgling relationship petered out after four months when we realised neither of us were serious.
Now I feel ready to fall in love again. I miss the social aspect of being in a relationship, and having someone to come home to. I know Olivia wants me to be happy, and tells me: ‘Dad, you’re good-looking, you’ll find someone!’
I’d like a partner who’s friendly, outgoing, trustworthy, and laughs a lot. Someone who stands on her own two feet and who’s chilled out. As for me, I’d describe myself as happy-go-lucky, funny and relaxed. I love cooking, entertaining and playing the guitar. Before, I haven’t been terribly proactive about looking for someone but hopefully that’s about to change!”
‘My friends’ matchmaking skills leave a lot to be desired!’
Robin says: “My ex and I both had an almighty shock when she found out she was pregnant with my baby just after we’d split up in 2001. Neither of us had a plan about what to do, and although we both knew there was no way we could make our relationship work, we agreed that I would be fully involved in our baby’s life.
I had no idea what to expect when Tara was born. I was young and carefree and never thought of myself as father material, but the instinct kicked in and all of a sudden I was doing it. I got nappy changing down to 30 seconds!
My bachelor lifestyle disappeared pretty much overnight, but it was actually less difficult than I thought. I lived close to Tara’s mum in Richmond, and most of the time, choosing between going out with my mates or time with Tara, now 10, was no contest.
I guess my attitude to meeting girls changed, and I probably started taking things more seriously. I was surprised how adamant some women were about not wanting to date a guy with kids. I remember one woman telling me: ‘I’m selfish, I want all your attention and I don’t want to share you.’ There wasn’t much I could say to that, and I suppose if she was that selfish I wouldn’t want to be with her anyway.
Now I live close enough that Tara can come and stay at mine after school sometimes, and I see her about three times a week.
We have a good laugh, but I do try and get her to do her homework as well – although I’m sure she’d say that she’s got me wrapped around her little finger!
I had a serious five-year relationship that ended a year ago. I introduced my girlfriend to Tara quite quickly, and they got on really well, which was a relief. To make it work, I knew I had to manage my time efficiently so that I could see my girlfriend and spend time with Tara.
I couldn’t date anyone who didn’t get on well with Tara, it just wouldn’t work. I’d like to meet someone who looks like Julia Roberts – I hope that’s not asking too much! But I like women with dark curly hair and a fair complexion. More importantly, they have to be fun and open-minded. I love sport, so it would be great to meet a woman I could be active with.
My friends have set me up with girls a couple of times, but their matchmaking skills leave a lot to be desired! In a way, having Tara has taken the pressure off me a bit. A lot of people my age are desperate to become parents, so I feel lucky that I’m a dad already. But I would like to get married one day and I’m open-minded about having more kids. Tara’s keen to have siblings. A couple of times she’s asked me who I’d like to date, and I’m touched that she wants to see me happy!”
‘My daughter drops huge hints about wanting me to get married’
Dennis says: “I’d only been with Alicia’s mum for about four months before she became pregnant. We decided to move in together so we could be a proper family, but it soon became clear that we didn’t have enough in common and the relationship wasn’t going to work. We were both sad when we split up in 2004 when Alicia was four months old. Although it was tricky in the early days, as the months went by and we both focused on Alicia, I knew we’d found a way to stay friends.
We now live about half a mile apart in Nottingham, and I see my daughter three times a week.
Dating as a single dad can be hard, and sometimes when a woman finds out I have a child they lose interest. Most of the women I’ve been involved with have been fine with it, but sometimes they get tired of me saying: ‘I can’t meet you tonight, I’m looking after Alicia.’ But there’s not much I can do about it, being a dad is my priority.
I’m quite confident about approaching women, but I’ve had my share of disasters. Once, I was on a first date with a girl who got so drunk she could barely stand up. I swear babysitting her was harder than looking after my little girl!
I was in a serious relationship for a year with a woman who had a daughter the same age as Alicia. I think Alicia enjoyed the idea of having a ‘sister’, and she liked being part of a family unit. She thought we’d get married, so it was horrible to have to tell her we were splitting up.
I’ve been single for about eight months now, and I know my mum would love to see me settled and married. I’d like that too, but I definitely wouldn’t rush into anything.
My perfect woman would be ambitious and hardworking, sweet and friendly. I’d like someone with a great smile who I can talk to about anything and everything.
Alicia is definitely keen for me to meet someone. She says: ‘It’d be great if you got married,’ and I agree it would be nice to have someone in my life – and for my house to have a woman’s touch!”
Want to date a dad?
If you think one of our dads could be your Mr Right, email us at email@example.com with a photo and a few lines about yourself. Or post your entry to Date My Dad, Fabulous Magazine, 3 Thomas More Square, London, E98 1XY by July 7, 2012.