Don't advertise your loneliness: A single mother recalls her experiences after placing the sort of personal ad that attracts unhappy people

Conscientious, cheerful lady, 35 (daughter eight, son six, all healthy), seeks residential position UK/abroad. Housekeeping, caretaking, gardening, secretarial, child care. Driver/swimmer/non-smoker.

AN AD like this can change your life, whether you are placing it or responding to it. It is meant to. Ask any one of the other domestic desperadoes who lay themselves on the line in the small ads of the Lady every week.

A few years back I was one of these walking wounded looking for care in the community. After losing my marrige, home and job within a few weeks, followed by a year of trying to juggle a part-time job with parenting, I was on my knees financially and emotionally.

The patient, the cautious will use a box number for their ad; the brave, the foolhardy give their phone number. People who can't or don't write letters, home in on the phone numbers. So do the weird and the wacky. I had 14 callers, of which seven were capable of a normal conversation. There were a lot of promises involving ponies, swimming pools and foreign holidays, but few clear offers of cash. One offered to send his chauffeur to collect me. Independence - mine, that is - was not part of any of the deals.

One man wanted a surrogate family to replace the one that had left home. Another, running a bed-and-breakfast in Cardiff, said he would 'be good to my children', in a tone that made me wonder how he treated his own. The rest were into dress sizes, terminal self-pity and heavy breathing.

One 'headmaster' had my hopes up until the conversation turned to his corporal punishment of boys and how did I feel about watching him? A transvestite in Marbella came across as almost cosy by comparison. One chap blew his cover immediately by stating, 'That's a very sexy voice . . .', which was a pity because so was his. I am ashamed to say the ones who confessed to being lonely never got past first base.

I also had calls from three other single mothers, seeking advice on ads. A phone number, I said, would bring them straight to the nub of the matter, but keep a stiff drink handy and take the phone off the hook when you go to bed. 'I want to look after a big family,' said one girl. 'It's what I need, it's what I'm best at.' I gave her the name of a single-father hotelier going spare in Spain.

Of the 14 respondents, I only met two. Tim sent us the train fare to visit him and his 14-year-old daughter in North Wales. He was friendly and scatty; his daughter, friendly, intelligent, bored and in danger of going off the rails. I liked them both, but did not relish the idea of being stuck on top of a mountain while he went to work on a Scottish oil rig. The last I heard, his wife had taken their daughter back to the city.

For some reason I had several responses from south Devon, which is where my children and I ended up. Richard was persistent, polite, chatty and tedious. He rang every evening for weeks, until I agreed to take the children to his home on the coast for a trial holiday. He was charm personified, nothing was too much trouble, and he was kind to my children. By this time, I was on my fourth after-school child-minder and the summer holidays stretched before me like quicksand. A month later he drove 300 miles with a hired van and carried us off to his comfortable lair.

Within the first week it became clear that what he really wanted was what most of my male respondents really wanted. No, not sex - though that would probably have been the icing on the cake - but a catch-all female prepared to fill the big practical, and even bigger emotional, void in his life. Lovely if she did the cooking and cleaning, but even better if she acted like the wife/mother he had lost, never had, could not keep; if she took him seriously, did not contradict, did not force him to cope.

When he became jealous of my children's bedtime stories and begrudged me evenings out without him, I knew I had to leave, even though bringing up the children by the sea was offsetting some of my crippling guilt at not being a 'normal' (ie, two-parent) family. In retrospect, this guilt seems daft.

Some time later, at a children's party, I spotted Simon through a haze of party poppers, and bells rang. That they were alarm bells I didn't realise then; I was too busy congratulating myself. Simon was newly widowed with two young, adorable daughters and was desperate for help. We were both in need.

The next week, my children and I moved in. It was Christmas, the children were in bouyant mood, his friends came to support him and suss me, and we all got merry together. I was knee-knockingly in love, and he responded.

Then, on New Year's Eve, he told me he would soon start bringing his girlfriend to the house - the girlfriend he had neglected to tell me about. For the next six months, until I could sell up back home and buy a place locally, I slept with earplugs, cried into the soup, yearned over the ironing.

His silent fury at his wife for dying and leaving him with small children knew no bounds. His resulting dependence - and on women at that - was insupportable for a man who believed himself to be in control of every sphere of his life. Like an injured animal, he was out for revenge on anyone who got in his way - in this case me and Flossie. (It helped, somehow, to give her a silly name. But looking back, I realise I was the lucky one; after all, I got out.)

I bought a Victorian mausoleum and filled it with other desperadoes, courtesy of the DSS. Things got worse before they got better. But get better they did. I have lived on my own for some years now. My children are about to fledge. I am in a loving relationship, though we do not yet live together. He has had problems, too. Independence that costs nothing is like gold on a slagheap.

I would not want anyone to make the same mistakes I did. What I learnt was how much pain there is out there, most of it hidden but on tap. That no one can cause pain like the pained. That we all have a hidden agenda, quite often hidden from ourselves. And that if you reach out your hand for help, the person most likely to take it is someone else in need.

All names have been changed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
News
Amazon's drones were unveiled last year.
business
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
Worth shelling out for: Atlantic lobsters are especially meaty
food + drink
Sport
Gareth Bale
footballPaul Scholes on how Real Madrid's Welsh winger would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford if he leaves Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Lily James in ‘Cinderella’
film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - Infrastructure / VMWare - Hertfordshire

    £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established industry leading business is l...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

    £22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss