Claudine Keane: 'I try to push them as much as I can without being too pushy...Rob and I balance each other out'
Life for the family of a professional footballer can be nomadic. Claudine Keane tells Claire O'Mahony she never knows where Robbie's career is going to bring them next
Afootballer's job means his family might regularly have to up sticks and relocate to a new country.
Model and mother of two Claudine Keane admits that she's not sure where husband Robbie's sporting career will take them. After spending five years with LA Galaxy, the former Republic of Ireland captain announced his departure from the club last year. It's meant that the Keane family have been spending time in Ireland for the last few months but Claudine is accustomed to never being sure where they'll end up next.
"You never know the time scale and even when you do, say they're under contract for a few years, it's never guaranteed," the 33-year-old says. "So I always live like that, where every time a transfer window opens, I'm thinking 'when is this window going to close?' But I think I've become so used to it now, I try and plan ahead as much as I can and live for the moment and enjoy it a little bit. But you never, ever know."
While the couple appear to have a glamorous lifestyle - they were pictured recently at U2's after party following the Croke Park gig - family life and their two children Robert (8) and Hudson (22 months) are at the centre of their existence. When Claudine and Robbie holidayed in Ibiza last month, it was the first time they'd gone away together alone - and the boys joined them just three days later.
In terms of their parenting style, she believes that Rob is more stringent than she is.
"We balance each other out. I'm laid back but education is very important to me - I went to UCD and I have an honours degree - so education and being healthy and being brought up well are important," she says.
"Obviously, there's the whole athletic background as well in our house, so sports and good foods are important to Rob and the studying is very important to me. He sometimes forgets and he'll say 'have they done Gaelic today?' and I'm 'have they done their homework?' so we work well and we balance each other out. I try to push them as much as I can without being too pushy. I'm a bit of a perfectionist at times in that I want them to reach all their milestones but I think every mam is like that. I'm very aware of trying to get them reading as early as possible, trying to get their motor skills as good as possible. I'm always reading up on where they should be and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not."
For the past year, Claudine has been working as a brand ambassador for SPAR and has just launched SPAR's Better Choices Kids initiative, which offers a range of kid-friendly convenient healthy options, with dietitian-approved products and also caters for those with varying nutritional needs, with gluten-free, low fat and high-protein products available. Getting involved was an obvious choice for the model, who says that the campaign's whole philosophy reflects everything that she believes in.
"I'm so passionate as a mam about being as healthy as I can while being busy and on the go. This is convenient food that is healthy and has been approved by a nutritionist, Ellen Roche, and we know that all the foods are balanced. Kids can go in and they can see the label Better Choices and it's easy to know what's good for your kids," she says. "Robert loves the hummous packs for example and the Innocent smoothies. These are things that kids enjoy anyway but SPAR is making it so much more approachable for parents to have a healthy lifestyle but to be on the go at the same time. You can't always cook. I like to have snacks in the fridge for Robert when he's coming in and out of the house with friends. He can just open the fridge and I know he's eating healthily and it's reassuring as a mam. Obviously for school lunches and early morning starts, convenience is key and they've really found the great balance in being convenient and healthy at the same time."
But she loves to cook when she can and describes Rob as being a dab hand in the kitchen also. While Hudson is still at the mashed food stage, Robert Jr is now becoming more adventurous with his food choices after years of wanting to only eat chicken. "In the last 18 months to two years, if we bring him to a sushi restaurant, he'll have some rolls. He doesn't like raw fish but he'll try a prawn tempura roll and he's starting to eat red meat. It just happened," she explains. "I was listening to all these mams saying 'oh my kids will eat anything. I'll cook a full dinner and they'll eat it all' and I thought I was doing something wrong. But it just clicked into place one day."
A family favourite is prawns with spaghetti, tossed in garlic and chilli and olive oil, and they love their salads as well.
"I think I've been given two fussy kids but they're working with me at the moment so I won't complain," she says.
Over the last few months, the rapport between the two brothers has deepened. "Hudson is just at that really fun age where he's starting to speak and show his personality and toddling around the place and banging in and out of things," Claudine says.
"Robert is starting to play football with him and do little things that he couldn't do before and he's seeing him as 'my brother' whereas it was 'the baby' before. We're always around him saying 'don't touch him too hard' and 'don't kick that ball too close to him' so everything was 'don't, don't, don't'. But now it's 'he can go as well, just be careful with him'. They've got a lovely relationship. He's always wanted a brother and now he's got one."
Being the only female in her household means she has put some ground rules in place - bouncing a football in the kitchen is not allowed, for example.
"I think I need a little girl to balance it all out! It's fine, I got used to all the sports channels and I typically go into another room to watch what I want to watch. The boys will watch Champions League, Robert and Rob, and Hudson is toddling around the place, trying to join in," she says. "Now, I'm kind of going 'gosh, would I know what to do with a little girl?', but I'm sure I'd know pretty quickly... Robert and Rob have a lot of energy so it's always on the go."
Her treat to herself is a relaxing massage and meeting girlfriends but she admits that she doesn't have much time that isn't spent with the family. Holidays are where some of her favourite family memories have been made - like swimming with dolphins in Dubai for example - because they're in a different environment and everyone is focussed on each other.
They try and spend as much time with the kids as possible when they're away and it's very important to her that they have memorable experiences. When it works, Robert goes everywhere with them. "Every concert we go to he comes, bar U2 the other night, but he went to Coldplay. It's really lovely to be able to experience things, especially when we're in America, we were getting invitations to go to the Grammys or whatever. He was six and I thought he was very young [for the Grammys] and I wished he was 10 and could really understand it but I still wanted him to see it and enjoy it and have a memory of some kind of it."
She believes women put themselves under a lot of pressure when it comes to parenting, something she confesses to doing to herself and, if she could give any advice to others, it's to ease off on that. "I can be tough on myself and question everything but it's just to appreciate having healthy children, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy it and not be too hard on ourselves," she says. "Going with the flow is what I've had to learn and when you've had those tough days or those days where things haven't gone your way, that's life. Think about it like that because otherwise you could drive yourself crazy."
SPAR's Better Choices initiative is available at participating stores nationwide. See spar.ie
Mother & Babies