Steve Fish, 52, has always regretted never marrying and having children of his own.
So after 23 years of working for British Telecom, he took a career swerve to train as a childminder.
Now his Birkdale Road home in Bedford is crammed with toys and laughter as he cares for his eight charges at various times of the day.
“I love it,” he said. “We’re busy all the time and during the school holidays we’re out and about having fun every day.
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“After all these years, I’ve found my true vocation. I just wish I’d done it years ago.”
Steve, who has been praised as “good” by Ofsted, also helps his minded children with their homework and does English and maths learning sessions with them.
His only bugbear is cooking, he confesses.
“I’m not the best cook at all. I buy ready cooked lasagne and other meals that the children like –and I always make sure they eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said.
Stevehas even moved house to have more space for his young charges, who are aged between five and 12.
“I’ve worked all my life so was lucky in that I could afford a nice house,” he said.
“I kept waiting for the right woman to come along but it never happened. It would have been lovely to have children of my own, but childminding is the next best thing.
“It’s a wacky kind of ‘family’ – but it’s great.”
Only two per cent of childminders in the UK are male, and Steve is encouraging more men to follow his example.
“There is a certain prejudice in that most people expect a childminder to be female. But I found any prejudices were soon overcome.”
Steve is now considering expanding his ‘family’ by taking on a second teenage lodger through the YMCA supported lodgings scheme.
Steve opened up his Bedford home to a teenage girl under the YMCA Supported Lodgings scheme.
The project finds suitable and stable homes for vulnerable young people and care leavers who need a little extra support.
Steve has already taken in an 18-year-old girl and the YMCA bosses are so impressed that they have asked him to take another youngster.
The YMCA is looking for individuals, couples or families willing to sign up to the scheme.
”Offering a young person a roof over their head could change their future forever,” said a spokesman. Anybody wanting more details can call Sarah Collins on 01234 220518.