Ugo Monye: talking about dad struggles is crucial

The ex-England rugby star turned TV host chats about life as a father to his two girls Phoenix, 5 and two-year-old Ruby.

ugo monye working dads interview


When he was playing as a professional rugby player for Harlequins and England, Ugo Monye admits he was selfish.

“Everything is centred around you, isn’t it?” he says. “And the word selfish can have negative connotations. But as a sportsperson, it’s normal. When you become a dad though, it’s actually not about you at all.”

Ugo is dad to five-year-old Phoenix and Ruby, 2, which means he always has to stay on his toes.

“Phoenix loves learning, she loves her hair really neat and tidy and is always impeccably dressed,” he admits. “And then you have Ruby, who’s my spirit animal – slightly more mischievous, a bit more independent. It’s fascinating to see two kids, with the same Mum and Dad, just a couple of years apart, who are really different characters. But I love their energies. I love them for their differences.”

But when it comes to advice for other fathers out there, Ugo keeps it simple.

“Talk,” he says. “I don’t know what it is about us men, but we just aren’t very good at talking.”

“There is no manual for these things,” he continues, “but having a network of people just to talk to is good. Just to be able to offload how you’re feeling – the night you’ve just had, how you’re finding it difficult balancing work and being a dad.”

He reveals that he learned a lot from his family growing up, particular as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

“We had a single mum with five kids, that’s difficult,” he remembers. “But you can try and take control of things that don’t actually cost any money. Having a nice healthy environment at home doesn’t cost any money. Loving your kids and being as present as you can doesn’t cost money.”

ugo monye working dads interview

But above all, he’s just trying to make sure both of his daughters can do whatever they want in life.

“I know, had my kids been born when I was born, their pathway to play rugby, the career I had, would have been vastly different,” he says. “I wouldn’t have achieved everything I achieved if I was female. Whether it be sports, finance, music, dance, whatever it is, I just want them to be able to employ their talents and skills.

“Phoenix wanted to be a doctor when she saw everyone clap for the NHS during lockdown. She loved that idea of caring and looking after people. Then another night she turns and says to me ‘I want to be the fastest woman in the world!’”

Ultimately, he says, it’s down to collective responsibility to help future generations have all the opportunities – and the world – they deserve.

“Education starts at home,” he says. “Our kids are going to be the citizens of the next generation – what do we want our communities and our world leaders to look like? We have the ability and capacity to help shape that in a positive way. What they see, hear and feel – that’s who they become. I think it’s important that we as parents are really aware of that responsibility.”

Ugo was speaking as an ambassador for Tiny Happy People, the BBC’s early years language and communications initiative. Previously backed by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, the website is full of activities, tips and advice to help develop children’s language skills.

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