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When we catch up with Joe Swash over Zoom, it’s a full house. The doting dad, who lives with his partner Stacey Solomon, tells us, “We’ve got all four boys today, so it’s a bit hectic!”
Joe and Stacey are parents to 15-month-old son Rex, while Joe is also dad to 13-year-old Harry from a previous relationship and stepdad to Stacey’s sons Zachary, 12, and Leighton, eight. Joe says the pair are tempted to try for a girl, but any more than five kids and they’d be at risk of becoming “The Brady Bunch!”
After a busy start to the year for Joe, lockdown had its positives as he spent quality time with his sons. The 38-year-old won Dancing On Ice back in March, adding his victory to being crowned king of the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! jungle in 2008. Until last year, he presented the show’s spin-off, Extra Camp.
Now the star has teamed up with Network Rail and Thomas The Tank Engine to record a reading of Stay Safe With Thomas, which aims to teach children about rail safety and is available to download for free.
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Here, Joe talks about dad guilt, wedding plans and why he’s more in love with Stacey than ever…
How does being dad to a one-year-old and a teenager differ?
My Harry is turning into a young man. He needs advice on girls and all that sort of stuff. Rex just needs to be loved, cuddled and nurtured, so they both have different needs. I love being a dad. It gives me a meaning and a goal in life. We’re shaping young men to enter the world. When you leave this world, your children are your legacy and we’re determined to leave behind really lovely human beings.
How is Rex getting on?
He said “baby Rex” the other day. He says “mama” and “dada”. He’s starting to communicate and he’s up and down the stairs. He’s in every cupboard he’s not meant to be in, so we’ve had to get loads of locks for everything. He adores his brothers. He’ll kiss them but not me [laughs].
Would you and Stacey like to add a girl to the mix?
I think that would be the biggest temptation for Stacey and I. Not that having another boy would be bad, because we just love kids and love to add to our family. But if we do, it would have to be just one more time, otherwise we’ll be like The Brady Bunch with kids coming out of our ears!
How did you and Stacey get along during lockdown?
We’re not used to living under each other’s feet for so long, every single day. For the first couple of weeks, we banged heads a little bit but then you find your groove. We’ve got kids to feed and educate while they’re not at school. We struggled like anyone else. We have our moments. We argue about stupid little things, but we love each other dearly. The only reason we argue when we do is because we care so much.
Do you love each other as strongly now as you did when you first fell for each other?
Yes. I love her to pieces and she loves me. We find each other hilarious, but also ultra annoying at times. We adore each other, we’ve got a lovely relationship and she’s so sexy. She’s beautiful. She ticks all my boxes. I’m a very lucky man. Years ago, before I met Stacey, I did Dinner Date, and they asked me who my perfect woman would have been. And someone sent me a clip of it lately and she ticked every box I mentioned. So I can tell the younger me back then not to worry.
We love how you two wind each other up with pranks on Instagram. Have either of you ever crossed the line?
If you ever mess around with Stacey’s grub, she’s fuming [laughs]. Instagram is like the added member of our family. We wind each other up on there all the time. I’m not as good as Stacey though. I need a masterclass.
Would you like to get married?
The kids always ask us. We’re really busy at the moment, so I think if we had a five-minute break, maybe yeah, I think it would be really nice. But on our list of priorities, kids and careers are above it. Once things slow down, then maybe.
We talk a lot about mum guilt when juggling work and parenthood, but do you ever get dad guilt?
Terribly. When I signed up for Dancing On Ice, little Rex was only three-months-old. It was intense hours and I was barely seeing the baby. I felt this massive guilt. I could see he was more attached to Stacey, the boys and both our mums. I felt terrible that I hadn’t been around. My Harry, I usually have him all the time and he could only come and see me on the Saturdays when he came to watch the show. So lockdown, although it is a terrible situation, was at least a chance to spend loads of time with Rex, with Harry and with Stacey as well. We hadn’t spent proper time together, so I get partner guilt as well if I’m working loads and Stacey’s looking after the baby and I can’t help.
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As a dad, do you find you’re more of a worrier when it comes to safety?
Yes. Everything is a worry. I remember when both my boys were born, I’d get up in the middle of the night and just check that they were breathing. Our little Rex is a little terror. I found my remote control in the toilet recently! You’ve got to really keep an eye on them. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by worry. How am I going to deal with these boys when they get to 16, and they go through some of the things I went through, like going on boys’ holidays? I just have to take one day at a time.
I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! is going to be in Wales this year. What do you think about that?
I love the jungle. It’s a massive part of my life. It felt weird when Ant didn’t come back and Holly did it, but then when we got rolling with filming it felt fine and everyone’s worry was put to rest. But I do think Australia is as big a part of the show as Ant and Dec. So I don’t know how it’s going to come across. All I know is the people that work on that show are top notch, so if anyone can make it work, they can. It’s just going to be a different show.
What appealed to you about the Stay Safe With Thomas campaign with Network Rail?
It’s all about using Thomas The Tank Engine as a vehicle to educate kids on rail safety, which I think is brilliant. Rex is starting to get into his Thomas. If I can sit down and read a story to him, and in that story there are really positive messages, then I think we’re all winning.
You can watch Joe reading the Stay Safe with Thomas book and download your free copy at networkrail.co.uk/thomas.
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