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Playing mom didn’t make her his wife

Updated: March 18, 2014 4:15PM

It’s one thing to fall in love with an older man. It’s another to fall in love with his kids, too.

When Ava was a 21-year-old college student, she became involved with Derrick, a 37-year-old engineer with two kids. One minute she was struggling with English literature, the next with Derrick’s 2-year-old daughter, trying to change her diapers in the locker room at the neighborhood pool.

“I was really scared,” Ava says. “I hadn’t been with kids very much before, and I was jumping right into it. I was scared that if it didn’t work out with the kids, it would blow my relationship with Derrick. I was scared that our relationship depended on my competence as a surrogate mom.”

Their second summer together, Ava couldn’t find a job. Since Derrick had the kids for the summer, he suggested she should be their nanny.

“I enjoyed being alone with them. But when Derrick was around, I felt a lot of pressure. I was always aware of him watching me, wondering if I’d make them a good mother or not.”

Ava came to love the kids. Most of the time, she got along beautifully with them. Of course, there was the time when she told Derrick’s 6-year-old he needed to take a bath and he screamed, “My mommy hates you and so do I!”

When she was out with the children, people said they looked just like her. They even called her “Mommy” a few times. Ava fully believed that at some point, when Derrick’s divorce was final, she would be their mommy.

Still, it was hard to hear Derrick say, “You do realize that the kids come first?”

“I understood that, of course. At least in my head I did. Kids should always come first. But emotionally, I didn’t want to be second best. I understood, but it still hurt.”

Ava began to feel the strain. When Derrick came home from work, he wanted to talk about the kids. What did they do all day? Where did Ava take them? Did they behave? But by the time he got home, she was tired of them.

“It was hard for me to admit I didn’t want to be with them as much as I was. I wanted to be free. I loved the kids — and Derrick — but I needed my freedom. I was too young to be involved in a relationship like that.”

In November, Ava broke up with Derrick. That meant, of course, breaking up with two kids, too. She never really got to say goodbye to them because the breakup took place over the telephone.

“I was very sad. I loved them as much as I loved Derrick. It was like I broke up with all three of them.”

A few years later, Ava got involved with another father.

“I never met his children,” she says. “I kept putting it off because I knew that knowing them would ultimately hurt me. More recently, I almost got involved with a third man who had a kid. We had two dates and then a fight. I didn’t pursue it. I didn’t want another man with kids. Lately I’ve been dating men closer to my own age.”

Have you been involved with someone with children? What effect did that have on the relationship? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to And check out my new website Syndicate

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