Rio Ferdinand has told how his cosseted life as a footballer left him unprepared for the practical side of parenting following the death of his wife, as he speaks frankly about becoming a widower at the age of 36.
Ferdinand, who has made a documentary about coping with his wife Rebecca’s death from breast cancer, said he had not realised how much of the parenting burden she had carried until she had gone, leaving him as a lone parent to Lorenz, nine, Tate, six, and Tia, four.
His life now is a “totally different scenario”, he confession, moving from not knowing how to book a doctor’s appointment or a holiday to juggling family life.
“There’s all this organisation and structure within a family home that men don’t see,” he said.
“Women are thinking constantly what needs doing.
“I used to wake up, get dressed, have some breakfast with them, and then I’d take them, drop them off and get out and go to training, and think I was doing my bit.
“But that’s the easy bit.
“Rebecca would fill in all the blanks that I wasn’t involved with, but now it’s a totally different scenario. Where are their shoes? Where are their clothes? Where are their bags?
“Then you get in the school playground and you’ve got parents coming up to you, ‘Can we take him to a play date? Would you have so-and- so?’ And your kid’s saying, ‘Can I bring so-and- so home?’
“And you’re just sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, this is mental’.”
In an interview with Radio Times about his new BBC One show, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, he said: “In football you don’t lift a finger until you go over the white line to play. Everything is done for you.
“When you sit down, your kit’s in your locker. When you finish getting changed, you throw your kit on the floor. Someone comes in and picks all that up. Your boots, they’re muddy, someone comes in and gets them, cleans them.
“When you get to an airport you don’t even look at a sign, you just follow feet.
“Then at home we’d go on holiday, for instance, and all I had to do was pack my own bag because Rebecca packed.
“It was even, like, ‘How do I go to the doctor’s?’ I’d only ever seen the club doctor. I didn’t have a clue.”
Ferdinand now hopes to help others who have suffered bereavement by allowed cameras to follow his family’s journey.
Refusing to comment on rumours he is now dating The Only Way Is Essex star Kate Wright, he added that listening to the stories of other widowers had given him hope.
He said: “That’s when I started to kind of smile a bit more and think maybe there is a chance I’m going to be happy one day again.”