Parenting : Greg Rusedski's shares his top tips on being a great dad ahead of Father's Day

If there’s one dad who knows what it’s like to put his kids first it is tennis legend Greg Rusedski. After a distinguished career at the top of the tennis world, Greg gave it all up to focus on the number one priority in his life, his children.

Since then the former world ranking number four player has juggled his career as a tennis commentator around looking after his two kids, leading the way for thousands of dads around the UK who are reversing the roles and becoming the primary caregiver in the family.   Something that is becoming more common, even if just for a temporary period as new paternity laws mean many new dads are now eligible for the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave.

And while for Greg his children come first at all times, he knows for some working dads, the pressure is on to make sure the time they do have with their children is quality time.

Log on to our Web TV show for a Father’s Day special where Greg Rusedski explains why he made the choice to give up his career for his kids and how dads planning to do the same can make it work . Alongside him will be a parenting expert with more tips on becoming the family’s chief care carer and for working dads advice on everything from broaching the tricky subject of flexi working so you can be home in time for bedtime stories, to how to make the most of the time you do get with your kids.

Greg Rusedski and a parenting expert joins us live online on Tuesday 14th June at 2pm

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H: Lis Speight, host

A: Greg Rusedski, former tennis professional

B: Rob Williams, chief executive, Fatherhood Institute

H: Being a dad these days isn’t always easy, but by embracing modern technologies, getting organised and making some quality time for your family, things might seem a little less stressful


H: Hello and welcome to Parent Talk brought to you today by Ocado, I’m Lis Speight. Now our children are our number one priority, from the moment they’re born, and those of us who have been lucky enough to be blessed with parenthood will know that it’s not always an easy ride. Well joining me today to guide us through and offer advice to families out there is chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute Rob Williams, and former tennis professional and father of two, Greg Rusedski. Guys good to see you, really welcome to the show, really great to see you today. Coming up on the show today we will focus on working life and childcare issues; making the most of family life by getting efficient and being organised, and all your questions will be answered here live. And remember we are broadcasting here live today so if you have any questions or comments for Greg or Rob please use the box on your screen and we’ll do our best to tackle them over the course of the next 20 minutes or so. And if you are tweeting whilst watching the show – how modern – you can get involved in the conversation by tweeting @ocadouk. Ok well let’s get started by asking Greg a little bit about his family. You’re obviously very busy but you’re spending a lot of time with your family too. How does your family dynamic work?

A: Well Lucy, my wife, and I we have two kids, we have Scarlet who’s 5 and we have John James who’s 21 months old, you know it’s a lovely time in my life, I mean when I’m not working I do the school run, I drop my daughter off at school, I pick her up at 3.20, John sometimes comes in the pram with us, we like to go to the park, just do activities together. I sometimes cook some meals to help out as well with the family, so it’s a lovely dynamic. At times it can be stressful, it can be difficult, especially when they’re first born and they’re younger because you’re lacking sleep and all those –

H: It’s so tiring isn’t it?

A: It is but now it’s good, the kids are sleeping till about 7 / 7.30

H: hoorah

A: So life has changed, we’re getting some recovery now, and it’s just great to be a dad and do all those activities with the kids

H: Yes you’re lucky that you can spend some time with them. And things are changing a little bit for dads aren’t they Rob, the concept of traditional family life is sort of changing a little bit – dads spending more time at home, some stay-at-home dads choosing not to work, and the law has recently changed as well hasn’t it for the benefit of fathers-to-be, and those who don’t know, what are the new laws? Tell us a little bit about work

B: Well for the last 8 years dads have had 2 weeks off that they can take when their baby is born. What’s happened now since the 3rd April, mother can share the last 6 months of her maternity leave with the father

H: Oh ok

B: So if she wants to go back to work, after 20 weeks of maternity leave, she can give the rest of her maternity leave, which is 6 months to the father. It’s a really big change and it recognises that a lot of women actually don’t want to be at home for a whole year with their children, they’d quite like to get back to work, and a lot of men would really like to be at home. And the government thought that maybe 4-8% of men would want to take that last 6 months, and they did that research in 2005, but last week we did some research with Ocado and we asked 1000 men would you like to take some time off, any part of that 6 months, and 75% of them said well actually yes, I would like to

H: That’s an amazingly high figure

B: Well it’s changing really quickly, what men think about fatherhood and their role has changed dramatically in the last 25 years, and even we’re amazed that it’s actually speeding up, more men want to be at home now than ever before

H: So they might want to be at home, but not every employer is that supportive. I mean what would you do for example if you were working for a small company and you were the main breadwinner, can you be confident in approaching your boss and asking for that time? Do they have to say yes?

B: That’s a good question. They do have to say yes if you want to take your 2 weeks paternity leave, and if your – if the mother of your child wants to pass on some of her maternity leave to you under the new rules, they also have to say yes

H: Oh right

B: Which is very different to flexible working, you can ask for flexible working but if the company really can’t manage to make that possible then they’re allowed to say no. They can’t say no to this additional paternity leave

H: Right

B: And I would really encourage men to go out and ask, after all 20 years ago when women started asking for maternity leave in large numbers, they were really nervous about what would happen to their careers, so actually managers, they’re beginning to have to deal with the issues that women have been dealing with for two decades

H: Yes, ok. So things are changing Greg. You set out to spend more time at home, you sort of turned things on their head a little bit, you gave up your tennis and decided to spend more time with your kids. How’s it been for you, it’s quite a hard step for some isn’t it?

A: Well it is, I was nearing the latter stages of my tennis career and Lucy and I hard Scarlet and she was born in 2006 and you know we were both excited about the time and for me it was the right time to give up because I didn’t want to be travelling around the world, I wanted to see my kids grow up. You know we only had one at the time, so for me it was very important to be there and to be able to help out with Lucy and with Scarlet and with the kids, so for me it was a big decision but the right decision because I think the time you put in with your kids, especially from a young age, really help out in the future, once they start getting to school and having their education it becomes a different kettle of fish where you don’t necessarily need both parents or one parent there full-time so –

H: It’s quite a short window really isn’t it and you can easily miss it

A: Well you can easily miss it, and we’re talking about the new paternity laws at the moment, and you look the 6 months now that a father has the opportunity if his partner’s working to stay at home with the kids, it’s something that fathers should really consider because sometimes we have the wife or the partner who’s the breadwinner in the family and it gives another option there and you know if Lucy and I decide one day we might have a third kid maybe she’ll be working and I’ll be –

H: Does she know about this?

A: Well you know she doesn’t know about it yet but in the future if we decide to one day, you know maybe I could take use of the new maternity laws out there as well, so I think there’s a lot of pluses out there for spending time with your kids, being a father who’s involved, whether it’s from going – doing the cooking, whether it’s helping out around the house, whether it’s just giving your wife a little break some days

H: Yes

A: You know all the areas you can help out is a big plus

H: Yes, I mean we’ve had some of your questions coming in actually, we’ve got one in from Dean – “how did you manage your relationship so well given you were in the public eye and especially with your long haul travel?” You’ve got a lot of demands on your time haven’t you?

A: Yes, you do have a lot of demands on your time but lucky for us I was near the stage where I was at the end of my career, so I wasn’t playing as much as my normal schedule

H: Yes

A: You know I’d have Scarlet travel with me on the road when she was 6 weeks, she’d already been to Miami, she’s been to Rome, so she’d probably say when we don’t take her on holiday anywhere nice in the future she’ll probably say to me “well I’ve never been to all these places” – well you have actually we have the pictures when you were born, you can’t remember it as you say, so I think it’s just getting that balance, making sure you pack your bags well, you know if you’re travelling with young kids you’ve got to make sure you bring the nappies, the bottles, the mixtures of foods and all those things and getting the balance right, and that was one of the reasons I decided to also give up because it became a really big ask to do all those things

H: Yes it is quite a juggling act isn’t it, I know for me it is, because childcare is very expensive, do you have sort of family and friends that help out?

A: What we do is, we have family and friends so we’re lucky that Lucy’s sister lives around the corner so she helps out a little bit

H: Right

A: Lucy’s mum will help out, but we like to be hands on parents, because if you’re going to have kids and you’re fortunate enough to be able to have that time with them, I’d recommend to try and do it yourself as much as possible, so like right now I’m extremely busy because it’s tennis season as everybody knows, we’ve had Queens and then there’s Eastbourne and then there’s Wimbledon coming up, so for my benefit where I help out is I’ll do the online shopping so I go to, I checkout the stuff, I get the stuff in and then I cook a meal at night if I’m at home early just to take a little stress from Lucy off without having to deal with the kids all day, so it’s just finding those little things you can do to help out, and then when she’s working, because she’s doing a degree right now, she’s studying, then I will take the kids and we try to balance our schedules where they work both ways

H: Yes so if you can do your shopping online that means that on a weekend you can spend a bit more time with your family doesn’t it?

A: Well exactly, rather than go to the shops on a Saturday, it’s there, it’s delivered, it’s next day – it just makes life easier. Use the technologies we have, around to help us out, any which matter

H: Yes but for some dads getting home is a bit of a challenge isn’t it? Not everyone manages to get home to read the bedtime story, I know my husband travels a lot with work, but new technology Rob can be quite useful can’t it for parents these days?

B: Yes it can, well in two ways really – you can phone your children, you can email them, you can message them, they can draw pictures on whatever application they’ve got and they can email that to you so you know it can help you stay in touch, but it can also help you to shift your work around. You can work from home really easily these days and if anyone ever says to you well you know my job, it just wouldn’t work if I did it from home, you’ve got to really get them to think about that and say well what do you do in the office apart from talk to loads of people and drink coffee and spend time in meetings that you really don’t need to be in

H: Yes

B: A lot of work can be done at home, so maybe you can talk to your boss and say I would really like, two days a week to pick my kids up from school, and then I will do my emails and I will take my laptop home and I will do that work in the evening. Technology enables you to shift your daily pattern around, so that even if you’re in a job which is 9-5 you can change that working pattern and then find that time to spend with your children. So both ways you can change your work pattern and you can change the way you communicate with your kids

A: And the other things as well is I’d say you know technology one thing which is great is something called Skype

H: Yes it’s fantastic

A: Where you can actually see the picture of each other so for example you know you can sometimes get a time out at work or when I was travelling a lot, you know I’d want to see what the kids look like and it doesn’t cost you any money so you look back and forth through the camera, you see them doing – you can read great stories to them, so that’s another aspect of using technology as well

H: I think Skype is a fantastic tool actually, it’s so easy to set up, people are a little bit frightened of it but my mum does, great granny even does it so there’s no excuse. And employers, are they getting a little bit better about sort of flexi-working and working from home? Rob you actually work from home don’t you?

B: Yes

H: Supposedly

B: Well the Fatherhood Institute it’s a think tank and we’re trying to prove that you can work from home and get more balance, so everybody works from home. We meet in London physically every few weeks to talk to each other, but it really works and there’s some really good research on fathers to be less stressed by the whole thing, because it can be quite stressful, and the thing that came out top was being able to work from home

H: Right

B: Not all the time, maybe one or two days a week, and also flexible working, just changing your hours so you can be there in the morning when everyone’s woken up and no one’s had much sleep, it just makes you feel better. Men do tend to find becoming a father very stressful, and –

H: Because they’re trying to keep the other side of their life going as well as if nothing’s happened and it doesn’t really work like that does it?

B: Yes and they’re really ambitious about what kind of a father they want to be as opposed to 20 years ago when bread-winning was enough, it’s not enough and it’s not just everyone telling them they need to do more, they know they want to get more involved

H: There’s a lot of pressure isn’t there on what we should be doing

B: Yes there is

H: On that note actually we’ve had a question in from Steve Newman, he says “most dads seem to spend as much time as they can earning money to provide for the family, but in the end it’s quality time and creative efforts which count. Do you agree it’s all about striking a balance?”

A: Well it is about balance, I mean if you look at life it’s always about balance, I mean when you have kids – why have kids if you can’t have the time with them, so you’ve got to find the balance and maybe cut corners on certain things that you normally have, to get that time with your kids as well because you know it will really pay off in the future when they get older, and you don’t want to miss out on the moments when they take their first step, when they talk for the first time, all those magical moments we have as parents so you know sometimes you’ve just got cut out certain other aspects to make that sacrifices in life

H: Yes and it does go very quickly this time

A: Yes it does

H: You think oh I’m never going to get to them walking and then suddenly they’re walking aren’t they?

A: Well the other thing as well is when you first have kids it’s a sleep deprivation which most people struggle with. If you can get them in the routine, and you’re fortunate enough that that works for you, you know then once you get the sleep then it becomes more but those first few months are very challenging for a couple and for everybody

B: They are and the bread-winning side of life is important, but mothers and fathers both want to do bread-winning these days,

H: Yes that’s right

B: By the time most couples have their baby and the mother is 40% likely to be earning more than the father, so this idea that it’s the man’s job to earn the money is really outdated. But there’s two important things to say about involved fatherhood. One is that if a father is involved with his child, then the chid is much more likely to do well at school, much more likely to avoid getting into trouble as a teenager and much more likely to form good, adult relationships. There’s something about having both parents engaged with you as carers, which gives you lots of protection about all the things that can go wrong.

H: Yes so fatherhood is important

B: It is important for the children, but if you also study couples, couples satisfaction, as the researchers call it, couples are much more likely to say they’re happy with each other if they’re both sharing the parenting responsibilities, if it’s not just one of them who does everything

H: Yes

B: And the other one who does all the bread-winning. If there’s a sense of sharing, they’re much more likely to be happy and much more likely to stay together

H: Which is good for the children

B: For the long term. Which – and it makes sense, kind of common sense but the research totally backs that up, you’ll be happier as a couple if you share your parenting

H: If you share parenting

A: Well the other thing is it’s all about communication at the end of the day if you look at the couple, because if you’re not both involved with the kids or talking about what’s happening here and making decisions and one person’s doing more than the other, then you miss all that communication and that’s where relationships breakdown, with kids or without kids so you know it’s just putting that common sense as you said there

H: Yes. But talking about trying to spend time with your children, we all know we should spend time with our children, but it’s not always that easy is it? We’ve had a question in form Roberto Hennessey, he says “I work in an environment where there’s a lot of pressure to stay at work late” – that’s very common isn’t it in the workplace these days? “But I’m getting increasingly fed-up of missing the kids’ tea time. How can I change this?” How does he approach his employer?

B: Ok, some men are going to have to be pioneers I think

H: Yes come on Roberto you can do it!

B: And Roberto this could be you. They’ve had a similar situation in Sweden, although they’re kind of ahead of us in how involved fathers are, and a really good study in Sweden showed that workplaces change quite fast as long as the first father who actually asks for flexible working opens the door and things begin to change quite quickly, and the way their colleagues perceive the workplace. But I guess if you’re in an office where it’s really important to be at your desk, you just need to challenge that. A lot of men change jobs when they become fathers, not straight away but in the first two years after becoming a father, if they’re not finding it’s possible to get that balance in the current workplace, they will gradually drift away, and employers are now getting quite interested in stopping that happening because they’re losing really good people

H: So if they want to hold onto you Roberto, then they’ll try and bend a little bit in your direction

B: They will yes

H: Ok. Well it’s all interesting stuff isn’t it? Coming up next more of your comments and questions. Stay with us


H: Hello if you’ve just joined us today on Parent Talk we are chatting about getting the most out of family life. You’ve been sending us in your questions so let’s take a look at a few more of those. James Potter has sent one in, thanks for your question James – “what fatherhood lessons have you learnt the hard way and would you do anything differently?” Greg. That’s a tough one

A: Well that is a tough one you know I think one of the best advice was make sure you read to your kids every night

H: Yes

A: You know before I became a father it’s just spending that time, and when they learn how to speak you know if both parents speak to the children – and when you’re changing the nappies, that’s an adventure for the first time of any parent whatsoever so you know always make sure you have that mattress underneath because you don’t know what’s going to happen there, and I think it’s just being involved with your kids as well from a young age – you can see what their passions are and their personalities from a young age, with Scarlet and John we can tell their personalities very, very, very soon, even though they weren’t talking you could see what they were like and what similarities they have, and just encouraging them to try everything out and just being there for them really

H: Yes. I thought before I had kids that you sort of made your kids like certain things, but if they, you know they liked football because you made them like football; it’s just not like that is it? They are born like they are born and I think that’s really interesting

H: Well exactly, I mean I look at my daughter Scarlet, she loves reading, she loves writing and she loves drawing. You know I take her on the tennis court once in a while and hit a few balls and she tries it up and says daddy you don’t know anything about tennis, the coach knows better than you, I’m not sure she’s going to go in a sporty sort of direction but that’s absolutely fine, well John he’s gung-ho, he’s going to go out there, he’s going to go running, jumping, he’s fearless, so you know you see their traits from a young age, and encouraging them in the directions that you feel they will enjoy the most and then letting them make the decisions when they get old enough what they want to become and do

H: Yes exactly. Well Rob any tips that you’ve picked up for those expectant fathers out there?

B: The thing we say most is look after yourself as well, you know, you’re not going to get much sleep for the first few months but you need to make sure that you’re really up for it. You can get really exhausted and a lot of men tend to – if they’re working – they dash back from the office to do as much as they can at home, and what goes from their life is their contact with friends

H: Right yes

B: That socialising

H: That’s a very good point actually

B: Gets squeezed to nothing. Whereas a lot of mothers who are at home, they’re making new friends, lots of new mums in the community that – women social networks actually increase when they become mothers, but mens contract to a degree which could become quite isolating. So what we often say is just make sure that you are making a little bit of time to stay in touch with all those things about your life beforehand that kept you happy and don’t just throw it all away

A: But the other thing as well, adding to that, is you know you make friends as well with other families who have kids so there’s men who are basically the same age as you who are working, so your social life becomes a little bit different than it was in the past. I think the balance is – the first 3 months it’s almost impossible to get that sort of thing where you know you don’t have to shut down everything for a little bit at the beginning

B: Yes and if there was one piece of advice that would help men and women just cruise through the first 3 months, we’d be selling it wouldn’t we?

H: Yes exactly we all muddle through don’t we in our own sweet way, yes. I always think, I always tell people that you know if you think you’ve got it sussed it’s going to change next week, so there is no rule book is there? Ok another question in from Degia, “my mate’s son Murray is training hard for tennis” – we knew there’d be a tennis question in here didn’t we? “And has potential to be a future tennis pro. What advice would you offer Murray to become not just a good tennis player but a great” – I read that wrong – “not just a good tennis player but a great tennis player? Is it simply a case of practice?”

A: Well I think you know if you look at it, it is practice, putting in the hours, and also it’s got to be a passion of yours, something that you absolutely love and want to do, and that’s the key for any child. And if you look at Andy Murray, our big hope for Wimbledon this year, he’s nearly there so he’s just won Queens, he’s going to Wimbledon confident, so you know it’s an exciting time for tennis as well, it’s got to be a passion of somebody’s

H: You’ve got to have a small amount of talent as well I should imagine as well, don’t put yourself down!

A: Well you have to have a certain amount of talent as well, we were having this discussion actually, Rob and I before the show came on and we were just saying there’s a theory about 10,000 hours, the age that you’re born in and all these things but I think it comes down to a person who’s very competitive, who loves what they do, and has to want to do it and also has to have the backing of parents. Parents are keys in any issues in life, whether it’s bringing up your child or it’s getting involved in sport, or any direction, that’s the key

H: Are you going to encourage yours to go into tennis?

A: Well Scarlet’s already trying, you know at the moment she’s hitting a few balls but I’m not sure that’s going to be her passion but for a social game it’ll be great, and John I’ll get involved in tennis but I’ll try him at all the cross-sections of sports. With kids if it’s going to become your livelihood it has to be their decisions and then you need the parents to support you throughout and that’s the key. Because if it’s not your passion and you do it, then there’s still things that can go wrong even if you become successful

H: And when you play them you’re not always going to win are you?

A: No you’re not always going to win, it’s not possible. You’ve got to still have the success in some respects, you’ve got to play people who are worse, the same, better than you, and you still have to learn about winning as well and losing and learning how to handle it

H: And you’ve got to let them win

A: Yes exactly you know letting them win is always a good thing

B: I was going to ask you about that, there is someone I know who really doesn’t let his children win at tennis and they’re only 9 and I think come on you could just let her win

A: Well you’ve got to build some confidence up but he’s probably under the theory that if I beat them I’m going to make them that much more determined to beat me, so you’ve got to find that competitiveness

H: On the tennis subject because tennis is in the air at the moment, let’s face it, the sun’s out, we’re all hitting balls about. Johnny G sent a question in and says “I’m so excited about this year’s Wimbledon. Who do you think will win this year?” Come on, who’s your money on?

A: Well you can’t bet against Nidal at the moment. Expect the top 4 guys to be there, you’re going to have Nidal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray in the semis. If Murray plays Federer or Djokovic in the semis he could be a possibility he can get to the finals and then it’s a one match shoot-out so he could have a chance and he’s very confident at the moment but it’s hard to bet against Rafa, Rafa’s like superman, I mean I’ve never seen anything like him before

H: I know he’s amazing, a force to be reckoned with isn’t he?

A: Yes and you ladies like him when he takes off his shirt

H: Yes it’s the only reason we watch! Right another question in, last question actually, Mr James Avert says “Greg” – another one for Greg – “my kids always forget about my birthday because Father’s day is so close to it. It is my birthday today in fact can I get a shout-out please”

A: Yes well happy birthday to you and don’t forget about Father’s Day for all of us, I mean my daughter usually on Father’s Day she draws me a card, you know which John tries to sign which is just more of a scribble and Scarlet puts her name down, which is always a special day and then I usually get a nice meal with the family and it’s important to have that family time so make sure that your birthday doesn’t get combined with the Father’s day and it works out that you get your two special days

H: Yes Ok well I hope that’s good enough, what are you doing for Father’s Day, anything exciting or don’t you know yet?

B: Because I’m head of the Father’s institute Father’s Day is busy because I do lots of interviews on the radio but actually we are having a lunch together with the family and my kids, they do really nice Father’s Day cards, like yours, they’re great. “Dear Dad, you’re the best dad in the world”

H: Aah

B: There’s nothing like that on Father’s Day, really brilliant

H: Oh I know, it’s nice to be told you’re great isn’t it. Well great one, thanks so much for coming in, it’s been really interesting to talk to you and good luck with all your tennis commentating for Wimbledon and what have you. And remember don’t spend your Saturday morning shopping in a busy supermarket when you could be out with the kids in the park knocking a few balls around for example. Try online food shopping with, it might save you a lot of time; spend more time with your kids. Well happy Father’s Day everybody and we’ll see you next time, bye bye