Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington on why parenting is easier second time around

For Olympic champion swimmer Rebecca Adlington, dipping her toes in the parenting pool was much easier second time around.
Becky Adlington with daughter Summer and baby Albie. Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.Becky Adlington with daughter Summer and baby Albie. Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.
Becky Adlington with daughter Summer and baby Albie. Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.

The four-time Olympic medallist is mum to six-year-old Summer and eight-month-old Albie, and, like many parents, she happily admits she’s a far more laid-back parent now she has a bit of experience.

“I think first-time parents are a little bit more on edge, whereas second-time round I’m a bit older and a lot of people around me have kids, so I know the terms a little bit more now, and I’m kind of in on the parent code.”

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Adlington, 32, who married her partner Andy Parsons in August, gave birth to their son Albie during lockdown – an experience she describes as ‘weird.’

f Becky Adlington with baby Albie.  Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.f Becky Adlington with baby Albie.  Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.
f Becky Adlington with baby Albie. Picture: Becky Adlington/ PA.

“It was just different because I had something to compare it to, like other second or third-time mums. With Summer, I got to have a proper baby shower and family came round, and my mum and dad came to the hospital when she was born, whereas none of that happened with Albie. We couldn’t have any visitors to the hospital, and once we got home we were still in isolation with all the restrictions. It was weird.”

While it might have been weird, Adlington says she wasn’t particularly worried about looking after her new baby. “I was more anxious about the birth and what that was going to be like, because I couldn’t really find a clear answer – it seemed like every hospital had different policies. But once he was here I had no anxiety.”

That refreshing lack of anxiety isn’t shared by every parent – indeed, research by Adlington’s own BabyStars swimming programme found more than a quarter of parents of children aged under two were worried lockdown restrictions had hindered their baby or toddler’s development, 22 per cent were anxious and 21 per cent admitted to feelings of guilt.

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“I can definitely understand why parents have been anxious,” says Adlington, “but when you’re a second-time mum you’re more used to things, and you know a bit more about what’s right and wrong – you’re a bit more confident.”

And of course this time around she’s got the help of her ‘big girl’ Summer to help with baby Albie. “They absolutely adore each other, it’s really sweet,” she says fondly. Adlington is clearly loving being a mum-of-two, and doing her best to juggle looking after them with helping run the SwimStars swimming programme and her recently launched BabyStars, to give babies and toddlers aged from 0-3 water confidence.

“I’ve taken both my kids from when they were a couple of weeks old – Summer was three weeks old and Albie was five weeks, and they both absolutely loved the water,” she says proudly. “They’re used to being in water when they’re in your tummy, after all.”

As you’d probably expect from one of Britain’s greatest ever female swimmers, Adlington – who first got into swimming herself at the age of three – passionately believes you’re never too young to start getting used to water.

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“The earlier the better from a fear perspective, because it’s like anything, the longer you leave it, you start to develop fears, and children can be very fearful if they’re going swimming for the first time at the late toddler age.”

And as far as her own kids are concerned, water safety, confidence and enjoyment are what it’s all about for Adlington – she’s not taking them swimming with a view to them becoming Olympic champions like their mum.

“So many people ask if Summer’s going to follow in my footsteps, but she’s six, you can’t say. As long as she enjoys it, that’s the main thing,” she says. “My rule is she’s got to be able to swim 25m on all four strokes really confidently, unaided and without stopping, and then she can decide what she wants to do after that.”

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