FAIR POINT: One step away from happiness

Kirstie Allsopp
Kirstie Allsopp
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She’s good at making things, is Kirstie Allsopp.

In her new series on Channel 4, she craftily creates all manner of vintage delights to turn a house into a home on a sixpence and a sewing machine.

But what the resourceful Kirstie really gets my respect for is the way she has turned what could have been a troubled and disjointed assemblage of kids, step-kids and ex partners into a snug, well-fitting hand-kit of a family.

She and property developer Ben Andersen got together in 2004 thanks to Ben’s ex-wife Theresa, an old friend of Kirstie’s.

The couple have two young sons, but Kirstie describes herself as a mum of four; she counts in her two step-sons from Ben and Theresa’s relationship

She’s openly talked about being determined to be a good step-mum to Hal, now 12, and Orion, nine, right from the off. And what fired her was seeing other people make a hash of it.

“There are people I love and respect enormously who behave in a way that’s rather shameful with their step-children,” she says.

“You can’t take someone on with children and then just pick off the good bits. It’s not easy - I’ve made thousands of mistakes, but the only thing you can do is work harder at it.”

Eight out 10 babies are born to couples living together. But by the time they are 15, little more than half of British children still live with both their birth parents, reveal shocking statistics on the breakdown of family life.

The step-family has become the norm. But that doesn’t mean all is rosy behind the cosy curtains. Many loved-up couples start out with an idyllic view of what their new family life should be like. But the fantasy soon dims and it seems to me it’s women, not men, who are the worst culprits.

I know countless women – the Brothers Grimm didn’t feature wicked step-mothers in their tales without good reason – who started out intending to embrace their new love’s children and build one big, happy family, but changed their tune. Visits from the steps get put off. At Christmas, better presents are bought for her kids than his. I know one man whose two sons came for Christmas Day to find no presents beneath the tree for them, even though their dad had taken on their step-mother’s little boy as his own. At least she was there that day, though; usually when they came to visit, she would go out for the day.

Jealousy and insecurity is usually the root cause. These women want all their partners’ attention, not a share of it. They don’t stop to think that their happiness marks the end of a dream for their partner’s children. It means their mum and dad won’t ever get back together.

Never mind making chintzy cushions; Kirstie’s next series ought to be how-to lessons for step-parents.