Mario Rosenstock: ‘The miscarriages were some of the worst things I can remember’
Parenting in My Shoes: The broadcaster knew he wanted to be a father after his own family split
Mario Rosenstock: ‘I knew as soon as I became an adult that I would want to become a father.’ Photograph: Brian McEvoy
Broadcaster and podcaster, Mario Rosenstock, never had any doubts that fatherhood was for him. “I knew as soon as I became an adult that I would want to become a father. There was never any other thought in my mind. I would never have conceived of a life of not being a father.
“There is a reason I was keen to become a dad and that’s because I had a very split family background myself and I had a very insecure background. My domestic situation was very insecure and unstable,” he explains. “I yearned for stability. I thought that other people had it all great.
“I thought that my friends when they went inside their door, that there was a lovely big fire waiting for them and mummy and daddy were waiting for them and mummy and daddy were stable and secure and never fought. But I didn’t know that there is no such thing as a perfect family.
“I thought that was something that I didn’t have and that I was one of the only people who didn’t have it. So there was always a kind of emotional nagging thing within me that I would want to create what I never had.”
There’s a sense of, not shame, but a sense of ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’.
Although Mario was certain that he wanted to be dad, the road to fatherhood was not easy. “We had a number of miscarriages. It’s one of the worst things I can ever remember and that’s from a male point of view, so I can only imagine what it was like for Blathnaid,” he says referring to his wife. “It is the expectation and the burgeoning life that is coming, and it’s your preparation for the expectation of life coming into the world, and then for that to be cancelled is so sad and shocking. It’s just so sad. Sad for everything including the little life. It’s really, really, really one of the saddest things I’ve ever gone through.
“And then there’s the sense of, not shame, but the sense of ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’. I suppose that’s how miscarriage has often been treated in this country, that I think women are aware that they’re not ashamed that they had a miscarriage, that they know it’s not their fault they had a miscarriage, but somehow they still don’t want to talk about it.”
Mario says the birth of his first child, Dash, was an “unbelievable joy”, a sentiment he still holds true describing his now teenage son as “a bloody joy”. His daughter, Bellamie, is five years younger than her brother, an age gap which was not intentional but rather a result of further miscarriages.
I literally do pine for my family. I really do, I just pine for them when I’m not with them. I’m a home bird.
The pandemic put a halt to Mario’s touring gallop, but he says being present has always been “really important” to him. “I am a person who goes on tour, I tour as a comedian. I am hardly ever gone for more than two nights. So even when I’m in Cork or Limerick I’ll come back often that night, to go back to Cork or Limerick the next day.
“I love being there for them and I love wanting to be there. I’m only learning now how quickly the whole thing goes. When I’m on tour I come home. I literally do pine for my family. I really do, I just pine for them when I’m not with them. I’m a home bird.”
That’s not to suggest that Mario doesn’t enjoy the craic either. “When life is up and running, I love going out, tripping the light fantastic. I love going out and having a few beers and drinking wine. I love going to dinner and all that sort of stuff. I’m not Mr shy, retiring Mario at all. But what I do love, I do pine for my family, so that’s a different thing. I miss them.”
Mario says he has a few worries for his children as they’re growing up. One is social media. “I’m very worried about the complete consumption of their attention by this tiny screen. I’m worried about the laziness that engenders, the physical laziness primarily. This idea of just lying on your bed all day, soporific, scrolling through your phone. I think that’s just the dangers of not having any motivation.
It may be very strange for children to go back into a world which now they don’t recognise.
“For the year, I’d be worried about their physical and mental health,” he says. “We’ve already heard people have withdrawn into themselves. The concept of shrinking personality has entered our vocabulary.”
“Some of us will find it hard to reintegrate and re-orientate in society,” he continues. “And so if it’s hard for adults and it’s hard for us, it may also be very strange for children as well to go back into a world which now they don’t recognise.”
Mario has a complicated relationship with his own father which he says is “unfortunate”. As a father himself now, he sometimes thinks about the fact that his children don’t have any contact with their grandfather. “I think it’s unfortunate and I wish it were different, but it isn’t. That’s just not the way it’s been.
“Nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect. My dad isn’t perfect. This is the way it’s worked out. Some things weren’t meant to be.
“I’ve been gifted with a beautiful, healthy, gorgeous, intelligent, funny, mischievous family, beautiful wife. And you don’t get everything in life. You just don’t get everything. We all have our crosses to bear.”
The nature of Mario’s work has promoted him to cool dad status as his teen son enjoys that his father not only does funny sketches on the radio, but also that his dad’s skits are often passed around on social media. Getting a compliment from one of his son’s friends is “one of the best things you can ever hear”, Mario says. “We’re all aware of the stereotype of teenagers being embarrassed by their dad. And so if for some bizarre reason, and it’s to do with comedy this time, that my son might be proud of me, well it just makes my heart burst with joy even more.
“I’d be terrified of letting them down. I just don’t want to let them down you know, and it’s been a long time now and so far I’ve never let them down and even if I did let them down I would make it up to them. I think people, all of us make mistakes in life and all of us are imperfect and flawed.
“We must learn how to forgive each other as well and to teach our children forgiveness and to teach our children just because I’m their dad and Blathnaid’s their mother, we shouldn’t set ourselves up as paragons of wisdom or virtue. We are just people at the end of the day who will make mistakes, and children need to maybe learn that as well.”
The role of the protector is one that Mario enjoys. “I like having somebody to look up to me and give advice to as well, and to protect. It’s a protective thing, I wanted people to protect”.
“I probably didn’t get protected enough. I probably didn’t feel protected enough in my childhood. I received a lot of love but that’s different to unconditional protection. I probably wanted to give somebody unconditional protection.”
One of the highs of parenthood for Mario has been helping his daughter Bellamie to learn to ride her bike. “She had the bike for about a year and didn’t go near it, and then finally after my wife Blathnaid had tried about 100 times with Bellamie, I went out the first time on the grass and . . . ” he laughs.
“Another high is working with my son. He’s only 13 and he’s brilliant at editing and he’s brilliant at making rap videos, music videos. He’s quite a talented rapper and editor and he helps me make some of my videos when I’m doing stuff at home, and I’ve been really proud of being able to share some of that work experience with him. That’s been a joy”.
His parenting low was the death of his mother-in-law Maria. “She passed away in 2008, just a year after Dash was born. She was the ultimate mammy/granny. She was the life and soul kind of mammy/granny. She would have been without a shadow of a doubt front and centre in the lives of our children. She was really the business. She died in 2008, very prematurely. It was awful for us. I miss the role that she would have played.”
Parenting in My Shoes
Part 1: Vicky Phelan
Part 2: Lynn Ruane
Part 3: Keith Walsh
Part 4: Victoria Smurfit
Part 5: Billy Holland
Part 6: Joanna Donnelly
Part 7: Eileen Flynn
Part 8: Matt Cooper
Part 9: Hazel Chu
Part 10: Ciara Kelly
Part 11: Dil Wickremasinghe
Part 12: Alison Curtis
Part 13: Dáithí Ó Sé
Part 14: Brendan O’Connor
Part 15: Anne Dalton
Part 16: Gary O'Hanlon
Part 17: Paula MacSweeney
Part 18: Stephen McPhail
Part 19: Michelle O'Neill
Part 20: Jacqui Hurley
Part 21: Colm O'Gorman
Part 22: Mario Rosenstock