Comedian Josh Widdicombe became a household name as part of comedy talk show The Last Leg when it launched alongside the London 2012 Paralympics. When Covid-19 hit in 2020, Josh and fellow comedian Rob Beckett launched their own parenting podcast to shine a light on parenting in lockdown. They called it Parenting Hell – to reflect how many parents were feeling juggling work, life and parenting in the midst of a pandemic. In the first episode of SERIES NINE (can you believe?!) of Happy Mum Happy Baby, Josh joins Gi to chat.
Married to Rose, Josh is dad to two kids, four-year-old year old Pearl and nine-month-old month old Cassius. However, he didn’t always know he wanted to be a Dad. He was born in the middle of nowhere on Dartmoor where it was ‘Postman Pat’ vibes and a quiet childhood. After school, he studied at Manchester University and thinks he got into stand up comedy because he wanted to hang on to the student lifestyle.
He says: “I think I loved being a student and the freedom of being a student. And I think doing stand-up was, in a way, as close as you can get to that. You’re your own boss, you’re working when you want, you’re going to a cafe and writing in the day or whatever and then you work in the evening.” For a long time, having kids didn’t fit into that lifestyle and “work came first”.
This is my life now
But eventually, he explains: “I think like a lot of people you just go, maybe that’s the next thing or maybe we weren’t trying for a baby but we’re not if you know what I mean. That kind of thing. I think a lot of people maybe you’re slightly kidding yourself, you’re going well what will be will be because you don’t want to kind of tempt fate or anything. But that was how it happened. You kind of drifted into it in a weird way if that makes sense.”
Recalling when Rose told him she was pregnant, he remembers that they went to a cafe directly afterwards and things he had previously not paid attention to before, suddenly became very prominent in his consciousness: “Now the people you’re watching going what’s that like then? That’s going to be me. Look he’s struggling to get his pram by the door. God, my main memory is suddenly that kind of switch of being in Morita on Hackney Road having breakfast and suddenly you’re watching the other parents going, This is my life now.”
Supercomputer, rather than a human being
But how did he prepare for kids beyond paying attention to how other people were parenting? “I don’t think you can prepare. I tried to be a good preparer, but you realise that you can’t. We bought all the stuff I was quite good at that spreadsheet of all the stuff we needed to buy.”
Josh remembers buying and reading one book about having a child, but thinks that it was “a little too prescriptive: It was a little too ‘if you do this, then your baby will do this’ like it’s a supercomputer rather than a human being. I found it’s very easy to read that chapter in the book before you have a baby and go, ‘great. Well, they’re going to be sleeping 12 hours after three months if I just do this’. And then reality hits. It was probably the first thing I’ve ever done where you can’t prepare in the way you’re just thrown into. But I think that’s quite freeing.”
Surrender to it
He added: “I think there’s a really good lesson for people who are like me, who kind of do the research at school. I read all the things, write the essay. Actually, it’s quite freeing to be thrown into something where you don’t have that much control. Where you have to react rather than there’s not much you can do because suddenly, your child has hand, foot and mouth, and that’s it. That’s the next three days of your life and you’ve just surrendered to it. And I think that’s a really good kind of life lesson about how you can’t control everything.”
There are so many pieces of advice we’re given when we embark on the journey into parenthood, but for Josh, he remembers that the best piece he was given was not to put himself under any pressure for the moment of birth to be some kind of ‘Hollywood moment’ where the whole world would suddenly make sense.
“I think that one of the most dangerous things you can kind of tell people is when you meet your baby, you will feel a love like you’ve never felt before. There’s this huge pressure, which you just don’t need in your life, if you know what I mean. I just remember just the shock of how small she was. That’s what I mainly remember.”
To hear Josh and Gi’s chat about parenting life in full, head to wherever you usually find your podcasts (we’re in all the usual places like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify) or check out the YouTube video below. Listen to all other episodes of Happy Mum Happy Baby here.