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But I ended up feeling like a frustrated outsider.’ Charlotte and Evan split after five years.

The word stepmum is loaded with negative connotations, often prefixed by ‘evil’ or ‘wicked’ (thanks for that, Cinderella). James’ boy has a perfectly good mother and, when he’s with us, his dad does all the disciplining, cooking and bottom-wiping. ‘Tom and his ex split amicably, but when he met me it was quickly twisted into a “he left us” story.

His ex would tell Jacob that he wasn’t allowed to hold my hand, or she’d send him to our house without a coat in winter.

With too much baggage to contemplate a serious relationship, he was just the thing, I thought, to kill time between now and my trip. And yet I knew I wasn’t the anomaly, given that the divorce rate among 25- to 29-year-olds is twice that of the average across all age groups, and concentrated mostly in the early years of marriage (between three and five years).

In any case, I thought, what’s the big deal about dating a dad? With all the will in the world, you can’t give – or receive – the unconditional love that a parent can.

‘If you know you want children, the benefit of watching him at work is that you’ll have a much clearer understanding of where you’re compatible on important things like family values and discipline.’ And me?

I have been given a unique window on to a world I never imagined before I met James.

‘I can’t tell you how many times I was reduced to tears by a seven-year-old!

I’d been attracted to Evan because he was responsible, self-assured and not like the other guys I’d dated, who could barely look after themselves.

Rightly so, it’s his parents who watch him star as ‘third sheep from the left’ in the school nativity.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not sat anxiously at home sending ‘how did he do? ‘My boyfriend Evan made it clear from the start that I would always come second to his daughter Lola, and that I wasn’t to tell her off – even when she was rude to me in my own home,’ admits my friend Charlotte, 33, who has her own experience of dating a dad.

I’m 29 years old and I’m standing in a freezing playground, in heels, with a hangover, holding a melting ice cream.

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