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Ex-cricketer Andrew Flintoff : When I'm at home with family, that's the best part of my day

Ex-cricketer Andrew Flintoff talks to Lisa Salmon about his work-life balance struggle and how he sometimes forgets he's not the same age as his children

Proud parents: Freddie Flintoff with wife Rachael
Proud parents: Freddie Flintoff with wife Rachael

By Lisa Salmon

Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff is best known for being an England cricketer, as well as presenting Top Gear, regularly appearing on Sky comedy panel show A League of Their Own and even trying his hand at boxing.

But although the 41-year-old has plenty of impressive strings to his bow, three of his biggest achievements are his three children - Holly (15), Corey (13) and 11-year-old Rocky - with wife Rachael Wools Flintoff.

We spoke to the down-to-earth Lancashire-born sportsman about his family life.

Did becoming a dad change you?

"Possibly. The most bizarre thing is that when you have a kid, even though it's a massive responsibility and in some ways life-changing, it's almost like you've always been there and you can't remember what life was like before. But it has changed me - it's responsibility, it's not just about me.

"In some ways, it helps. It helped my cricket because you get a bit of perspective. At the end of the day, you're just trying to hit a ball or throw one, but then you've got someone whose life you're responsible for and it's a far greater thing.

"However, I still have my moments where I look at them and I think, 'How has this happened?' I'm nearly 42, but I feel like I'm their age and I've got to remind myself that I'm a father."

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How do you manage to balance work and family life?

"I'd like to spend more time at home than I do at the minute. It's a constant battle getting that work-home life balance right. I get it right sometimes and I get it wrong sometimes.

"When I'm at home, that's the best part of my day, the best thing I do. It's not even the big things; it's the trivial stuff. Taking them (his kids) to the bus stop, watching them at school or going to pick them up. Just spending time with them whenever I can. I do as much as I can when I'm at home and I want to. It's not a chore, although it has its moments.

"The kids are at the age now where you can have proper conversations with them. They've got opinions and you can chat to them about stuff and I want to be around for as much of that as I can. But with the nature of the job, I can't always be. When I go away, I'm on my own and I'm thinking about them, but they just get on with their lives. When I come home, I say, 'I'm back!', and they just say, 'Oh, alright, Dad.'

"But it could be worse if I was still playing cricket. One of the best things about retiring young, at 31, was that as much as I missed playing, I didn't have to go away for three months at a time.

"When my daughter was young - from about six weeks - she wasn't really at home, she was travelling. I took the family with me, but now they're at school, it's impossible to do it."

How much do you worry about them?

"Whatever age it is, there's always something to worry about. That's part and parcel of being a parent. But you've got to give them a bit more freedom, they've got to grow up. You just want the best for them."

Are you a strict parent?

"I can be strict. If things annoy me, they find out, but they're good kids, to be fair. You just want your children to be respectful, which they are."

What has being a dad taught you?

"Having perspective on things and (seeing) what really matters is the biggest thing. What you think you want and what you need are two very different things. When I'm at work, I just want to spend time at home. No more nights out - just driving the kids to whatever it is they want to go to. It's far better. I've not drunk for nearly five years. I'm far happier sitting around drinking mineral water and having a chat."

Do the kids play cricket?

"The boys play it and they're alright at it. If they want to go into sport, that's okay. I'm not bothered, to be honest. I was lucky to find something I loved and fortunately did as a job. I just want them to find something they love, whether it's sport or whatever. I just want them to be happy. I'll try and help them as much as I can and guide them but, ultimately, it's their decision."

You're a brand ambassador for Jacamo. What do your kids think of you modelling clothes?

"I think they wonder what I do sometimes. One minute I'm on Top Gear and then they see pictures of me modelling clothes. They take it with a pinch of salt - it's just what their dad does."

You've been very open about your struggles with depression. Do the kids know about it and do you think they'd talk to you if they had similar problems?

"They know. It's not something I hide from them, but I don't force it on them - it is what it is. I hope that whether it's about depression or any other subject, they feel they can come to me about anything. I think they do know that.

"It's a different pressure on kids today. Life's more complicated. We used to play out on the street and that was it, whereas now there's social media etc. We're just open with them. Nothing is off-limits.

"I don't think you ever get cured (from depression); you just learn how to cope with it. Having the kids around does help."

Freddie Flintoff is a brand ambassador for Jacamo. The Flintoff Edit for AW19 - curated by Flintoff - is available from jacamo.co.uk

Freddie Flintoff modelling clothes for Jacamo
Freddie Flintoff modelling clothes for Jacamo

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