Since lockdown began in March, Joe Wicks has managed to win over parents, children and grandparents all over the world with his 9am PE with Joe classes. But, once the cool down is done, he goes back to real life, which means parenting 2-year old Indie and 6-month old Marley with his wife Rosie. From his home in Richmond on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, Joe opens up in a candid phonecall with our editor about the ups and downs of fatherhood and what the future holds for him after lockdown.
It’s no secret that little ones will often choose the most inconvenient time to be raucous, but Joe has found a quiet spot in the house, and starts off our call sharing his plans for Father’s Day; ‘A little lunch or picnic would be nice if the weather’s good. But it’ll be a surprise, I’m sure’.
Living so close to Richmond park, Joe, Rosie and the kids are big fans of the outdoors. One of the ways they’ve been coping in lockdown is, like many of us, by getting outside for a walk, cycle, or scoot. He tells me their morning routine starts with Rosie and Indie having breakfast while he sets up and does his PE class, he’ll then have his breakfast, and the family will tend to go out for a walk in the afternoon.
Joe admits to spending ‘90% of the time at home anyway’ before lockdown, since most of his work requires him to film there, so it seems their family routine has remained much the same. However, since baby Marley arrived, he’s realised that
having two young children is ‘chaos and everything’s messy all the time’
But, he also acknowledges that ‘it’s just part of having two kids’. Joe is certainly not alone when he says that although there a hard moments, what lockdown has taught him is that family time is sacred and while some days can be a struggle, ultimately, he has ‘loved being together and having more time to spend’.
Having 2-under-2 can be a challenge, so I asked Joe how his family has coped with the change since the arrival of little Marley; he gushes over his daughter Indie, who has been ‘really affectionate towards him’. Like all older siblings, she was wary and got ‘a bit clingy’ with dad at first, but never showed any resentment towards Marley. ‘She just loves him; she puts his dummy in his mouth if he’s crying and will bring him his bottle of milk. She knows he’s here to stay now and just stares at him all the time and loves playing with him’.
Reminiscing about when Indie was just a baby, and seeing how much she’s grown, Joe reflects on the best parts of fatherhood, which for him have been ‘seeing them grow and develop their own personalities’. A big personality himself, and a sports hero to many children across the UK now, Joe knows how to keep things fun – some of his most popular PE with Joe sessions include ‘Fancy-dress Fridays’, where Joe has appeared on screen dressed as Scooby Doo, Spider Man and more, making him a big hit with the kids.
On top of his passion for fitness and nutrition, Joe is driven by the importance of leadership and takes pride in ‘being instrumental to helping Indie learn’. The second year of a child’s life can be one of the most important in terms of development and it seems Joe is much more than just a PE teacher in his own home. He has been reading books with Indie to help her learn new words, using flash cards and doing different craft activities – afternoon art with Joe, anyone?
He explains that Rosie does story time before Indie’s afternoon nap, and he does the bed-time routine, adding ‘her language has come along so quickly because of it’. Joe’s favourite thing about being a dad is the time he gets to spend with Indie when they’re reading their bedtime stories.
‘I love the bedtime routine and getting Indie ready for bed. No matter how busy the day is, I always want to do that, I want that time’
With over 4 million followers on Facebook, 3.5 million on Instagram and over 2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, it’s not hard to see why Joe spends a lot of time on his phone during the day creating content and engaging with his fans. But, when it comes to Indie’s bedtime, the phone goes into sleep mode too:
‘I leave my phone downstairs and I give her a quick little bath and then we lay in bed and just read 3 or 4 books before bed’
It seems Indie loves her bedtimes with dad as much as Joe does, she does anything to stay up a little bit longer, but the one that tugs at Joe’s heart strings the most is the ‘oooooh cuddles’ trick. There’s always time for one more cuddle! As with most toddler bedtime routines, it can take a while, but Joe cherishes this time, saying ‘I do enjoy that moment, especially because it’s the one time when I don’t have my phone in my hand and I’m really just being with her in that moment; so I love that’.
One thing Joe has learnt about parenting during lockdown is understanding how to be more patient. He explains: ‘In a confined space you really have to be patient, especially on a rainy day, you have to entertain your children and be calm – Indie will just scream and you sort of have to take a deep breath and be calm, and just know that she’s just trying to communicate with you, she’s not trying to annoy you’.
‘Being patient is a skill I’m developing each day’
Joe thanks Russell Brand for pushing him to give meditation a try. He is doing it 3 or 4 times a week now and finds it's ‘really really helping’ him with staying calm and relaxed.
A key part of parenting that Joe has taken a big interest in, as a qualified nutritionist, is food. His latest book, ‘Wean In 15’ is now a number 1 bestseller in the UK and is his second most pre-ordered book out of the 9 he’s published, so how did the idea come about?
‘I had a baby and thought where do you go now? Where do I get the information that I need? What is the Bible or what is the go-to for this information?’
Joe saw a gap in the market that he realised needed to be filled for parents in his own situation. He teamed up with nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed, and together they put together this recipe book with up-to-date advice and 100 recipes to choose from.
After being raised on an unhealthy diet himself, and not having the best start in life in terms of nutrition, Joe wants to help parents get their kids off to a healthy start with food by giving them ideas for recipes and guidance they can trust. Although releasing a book during lockdown is unheard of, and against his publisher’s warnings that no pre-orders would come in, it has been a huge success so far. Joe’s only niggle is that: ‘I didn’t get to do a book tour which I would have loved, so that’s a shame, but maybe next year!’
The recipes have been a big hit with Joe’s 2-year old daughter Indie, who he proudly describes as a big foodie:
‘I’ve really created a wonderful foodie with Indie, she loves her food so much’
‘She loves anything with a bit of flavour, so she likes little homemade curries and risottos. She’ll really eat anything, she loves things that are cheesy too, so there’s this recipe in the book called cheesy broccoli tots and they’re a really nice snack. They’re the ones that everyone cooked once they got their Wean In 15 book, 1000s of people were posting about that.’
Surprisingly for a 2-year old, Indie eats everything from Thai Green Curry to Caribbean Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew. According to Joe, the trick is to introduce these stronger flavours from the very beginning: ‘It worked because that’s all she knows, she knows that we eat together and this is what we do, we put cumin and paprika and curry powder on our vegetables, and she really really loves all that stuff.’
Joe’s son Marley is just 6 months old and will be starting his weaning journey this Monday. Joe and Rosie have waited to start the journey so parents can follow it with them in real-time, getting lots of useful tips along the way. So, stay tuned on their social channels on Monday for Marley’s first foods!
When asked what his top tip for parents on weaning would be, Joe said ‘my top tip would be just to relax and have fun with it, embrace it and be patient as well... you can’t expect your children to eat the same every day, they’re going to throw food and you might not be in the mood for it sometimes, but being calm and patient is a really powerful thing around children’ So the key, he says, is to
‘enjoy it, be patient, and also be consistent’
Following the triumph of Wean In 15, Joe is already planning the next additions to his collection of book releases. He has just signed a new book deal with Harper Collins and plans to release some children’s picture books and storybooks.
‘I’m going to be doing some children’s books in the future so I'll be able to read Indie & Marley the books that I've written, which will be so fun’
He is also working on a cookbook with recipes for toddlers and families with school-aged children, sticking to his core business themes of fitness, wellbeing, nutrition and healthy eating that he is so passionate about.
Circling back to his role as a father, I asked Joe what his biggest hopes and dreams are for his children in the future. What kind of dad does he want to be, and what does he look forward to doing with the children once they’re old enough? And, it’s a long list!
‘I want to take them surfing, riding on my electric skateboards, I want to take Indie on my motorbike – anything extreme! I just can’t wait for it! Rosie’s already pulling her hair out a bit. Everything I find fun and do with Rosie, I want to do with Indie. I want her to be like my best friend, I want her to come with me and take part in everything, go ice skating and BMXing and all sorts, anything that’s fun, that I love, and I know she’ll love. And even exercising with her, I'd love to just go for a little jog with her, that would be amazing. She watches and copies a little bit when I do PE with Joe, but you know when you see mums and dads that are running down the street with their kids, I think – that’s me, I’m going to be running with Indie one day! Going for little 5K runs together would be brilliant.
You can teach your kids to love exercise and get into it at an early age, and if you do, you’re setting them up for life. I think that’s so important. I think Indie’s learning already that we live a certain lifestyle and she gets involved. I also just really want to teach her about the importance of being kind to people, sharing and being friendly. She’s naturally really kind and sharing, but you’re always trying to reinforce that aren’t you? So they understand that they live a very privileged life and we must be kind and help other people as well. I like to think we can teach her that.’
If ever there was a time to teach children about being kind to others, lockdown must be it! It has been amazing to see so many people and communities come together.
Although Joe is loving spending time with the kids, one of the biggest struggles he has faced in the lockdown has been getting no break from dad duties. He explains, ‘normally me and Rosie will go out for dinner and get a night to ourselves, or we’ll go to the cinema and my mum and dad will watch the kids for a night. So, it’s little things like that I miss, I miss having one-to-one time with Rosie’. So many couples are facing the same struggle right now to have that quality time together. But, with schools and nurseries starting to re-open and the lockdown sloooowly easing up, it will hopefully only be a matter of time before we all get some quality child-free time.