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Fatherhood Interview: Greg Rutherford talks with ParentFolk

From the Olympic sandpit to children’s playgrounds – world champion long jumper Greg Rutherford talks fun and fatherhood with ParentFolk

Greg Rutherford has set numerous British records, won two Olympic medals and achieved so much professionally, but it his family life and kids, Milo (4) and Rex (2) that he is most proud of; “having kids is by far the best and most important thing I’ve done, sport comes second to being a dad. I wanted kids from a relatively early age and I just love being around for them.  The boys are lovely and I like to think that’s a reflection of what we’re doing. I’m incredible proud of how they are shaping up.  Being a dad makes you see the bigger picture,  I take much more pride in my boys than I ever did in my career.”  

Greg retired from professional sports last year and hasn’t looked back; “I had prepared myself for retirement so the transition has been pretty easy.  Two years leading up to it, I knew it was on the cards; as a professional sportsman your body takes such a pounding and I had so many various injuries that by the time I made the decision to retire, it felt like the right one. I had lots of aspirations and ideas about what I wanted to do, when it came to it, it felt good. It’s great not to worry about training every day and thinking about what I’m eating and drinking all the time.  For the first time in my adult life I can relax a bit.”

One of the main advantages of retirement for Greg is being around more for his kids; “They are so young and so many people have said to us you don’t get that time again.  I love it when Milo slips his hand in mine and asks me to come and play with him.  They are only little for such a short amount of time and before I was sometimes away for six to eight weeks at a time, so it’s great that I can be here more now.”

So what kind of dad is he? “I’m definitely a hands-on dad.  I’m basically the human climbing frame.  We love a bit of rough and tumble and I can definitely be guilty of getting the kids over-excited. I don’t believe in this whole ‘Daddy Day-Care’ thing. They’re your kids. You’ve got to just crack on.  I love being involved in every aspect, nappy changing, cooking for them, the whole lot.”

As a retired sportsman, how important is it to get kids into sport? “This is an interesting one as you often see adults living vicariously through their kids, pushing the sport that they would have loved to have done.  One thing I say to young sports people all the time is that you have to enjoy it. It’s so important to love it.  I really recommend trying as many different sports as possible.  As a parent, you might love football, but your kid might be an amazing badminton player or a great swimmer.  You don’t know until they try it. I didn’t really excel until my late teens, so for me it’s about exposing kids to lots of different sports.  Being active is hugely important to us as a family and we’re always outside having fun. You have to make sure that fun is the prime part of that activity.”

There is definitely a sense of fun in the Rutherford-Verrill household (Greg’s partner is instagrammer, blogger and mum influencer Susie Verrill).  “It’s really important for us to have fun as a family. You’ve got to enjoy yourselves and make time for it.  I’d love to think that when the kids are older I want them to look back at their childhood and think that they enjoyed every minute, that we had such a fun time and that they had such a brilliant relationship with their parents.”

“Susie and I are lucky because we have the same approach to parenting, we’re a pretty good team and share the same views.  I sometimes have to walk away when she’s discipling them as I can just see so much of myself in the children and find it really funny, but we put on a united front. We’re a strong unit.  It’s made me realise what I put my own parents through, that’s for sure.”

And what has having kids taught him?  “Before having the boys, I was a professional athlete, everything was managed and scheduled.  I think having kids teaches you patience and you have to learn to relax.  You might be about to walk out the door and you have a massive nappy explosion. You’ve just got to ride with it.”

Greg and Susie have teamed up with Haliborange to launch their “Every Parent’s A Winner” campaign.  “Social media gives just a snap shot of people’s every day lives. You never get the full picture; you don’t always see what’s really going on and that can make people feel bad about themselves. I genuinely believe that 99.9% of parents are doing a wonderful job and they should be rewarded for that.  We’re really open, we’ve never feared talking about the bad stuff as well as the good.  It’s the little wins that can make your day- being on time or just getting out of the door.  We can relate so well to it.  Rex put his shoes on the right feet for the first time this morning and that just made me so proud.”

And what about food and nutrition? Is it something that they place a lot of emphasis on? “We’re quite relaxed about food – I want the kids to have a healthy association with food and mealtimes, so we try to be as laid back as possible and get them to try lots of different things. We were laughing about the kinds of food that our kids eat now compared to when we were growing up. I don’t think avocados were even around then. It can be stressful getting kids to eat.  We have it all the time, you make the kids’ dinner and they decide they don’t want it anymore, even if they ate it the day before.  We give the kids Haliborage supplements so that we don’t worry if they eat broccoli one day and not the other. It’s not dissimilar to when I was training and I would supplement my diet to make sure I was getting the best nutrition I could. It’s all about peace of mind to take away the stress and help us get on with things.”

Greg Rutherford is working with Haliborange, the UK’s No 1 kids vitamin brand, on the ‘Every Parent’s a Winner’ campaign, which celebrates those everyday parenting wins. Recommended by 9 out of 10 parents, Haliborange is available from Boots supermarkets and pharmacies. For more information, visit https://www.haliborange.com/

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