Interview with Sonny Jay on fatherhood

With Father’s Day approaching, thortful caught up with Capital FM presenter Sonny Jay, as he just welcomed his daughter Mia to the world with his partner Danielle on the 8th May.

Sonny was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, before beginning a career in radio presenting. From 2018-2022 he co-presented Capital Breakfast with Roman Kemp and then moved on to presenting The Capital Late Show. He also won the thirteenth series of Dancing on Ice.

The interview covers all aspects of his fatherhood journey, from anxieties during the pregnancy period, to the best advice he was given from his peers and the morals he stands by to bring Mia up with. It also includes the support he’s had from Capital, his approach to mental health and bringing Mia up, as well as learning what a Muslin cloth is, how he’s going to celebrate his first Father’s Day and how he’s approached being a dad.

Sonny Jay and his family

Photo credit: Tiny Posers

thortful: During the pregnancy period, can you remember what your biggest fears and anxieties of being a dad were?

Sonny: Yeah, it’s actually quite funny because everything that I was so worried about during the pregnancy, as soon as Mia arrived, they just went away. But they were things like stupid things. Like, honestly, I was so worried about how am I going to sterilise bottles? I don’t understand. No one’s ever taught me how to do this in life. Would you ever have to sterilise your own bottle? But yeah, you know, everything’s so scary. They’re like, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that for a baby.

My worries were more stupid things like that, over am I ready because I genuinely felt ready.

Although you can only feel so ready and then obviously you know once the baby’s there, then you’re like, OK, I thought I was ready. Although I’d never heard of a Muslin cloth before. Do you know a Muslin cloth is? Well, I’ve got one of them as well, just in case.
It’s like a napkin that babies have and I’ve got them coming out of my ears, but I’ve never heard of one before until I had to prepare for a baby. All of these things that I was worried about, as soon as the baby’s here, you just kick into everything and switch on survival mode.

thortful: What was the best advice someone gave you on being a first-time dad?

Sonny: Someone said that everything you go through is just a phase and we’re only three weeks in. Everything that you sort of prepare yourself for, you hope that it gets better. Say, for instance, at the moment, we’re up every two hours in the night, which sounds terrible, but there was one night that we were up every half an hour.
So then all these two hours don’t seem as hard anymore.

Someone also said that when you have a baby every day that goes by, you slowly get a bit of your life back. And it sounds terrible to say because you see this as “oh you haven’t got a life anymore”, but you do. It’s just you slowly start to get another hour of sleep in the night or all of the other little details start to get easier. Everything’s just a phase and it sort of means that you slowly start to get a bit of time back for yourself and all that sort of stuff.

You’ve just got to go with it. Everyone gives you advice, but no one knows your baby. It’s not a textbook thing that you can revise for, you just deal with it because it’s your baby at that time.

thortful: What kind of morals do you want to teach your child? Is there anything you want her to stand for when bringing her up?

Sonny: My parents always taught me, and my nan especially was to have good manners, like elbows off the table, take your hats off at the table and all that. I mean, god forbid we had phones at the table.

I’m not very academic, I wouldn’t class myself as a clever person. I’ve got to where I am just based on being a nice person and working hard. All I care about is that she’s happy, I can give her things that I’ve got which are being polite and being kind to people – treat people how you would like to be treated. But then also I’d like her to be a bit smarter than me, I’ve already been reading books to her, and I’ve not read in years! But kids books are great, they’ve got furry things on them, there’s things you scratch and sniff, loads of fun!

thortful: Do you think you’d like her to work on the radio one day?

Sonny: I wouldn’t be against her being into radio if it’s something that she wanted to do, I guess. Yeah. Why not? I mean, you know, I could. I would say I’d like to be able to teach her things, but I don’t know if I probably could. Maybe more how not to do the stuff haha. I’ve had the conversation with Danielle my partner about what she’ll be into, maybe dance like Danielle, or loving football like me. I remember my mum sent me to like football lessons and I hated them. But I’m a massive football fan, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to enjoy something that you like watching, but it’d be nice if she got into radio. She could be a lawyer and I’d be happy.

thortful: Are there any family traditions you’re excited to experience with her?

Sonny: Christmas for me is my favourite time of year. I will always make sure I’ve got time off work at Christmas because I just love that my family have time off work at Christmas. Everyone’s up for doing something and spending time with each other. And it’s sad that we only do that at that time of year.

But just stuff like that. When it comes to Easter I’d love to do the Easter egg hunt in the garden – the things that aren’t acceptable when you’re an adult to do alone but amazing experiences with your children.

thortful: Which of your celebrity friends have offered support? What kind of tips have they given you?

Sonny: It was quite funny because out of all my mates I’m the first to have a child, which is worrying because they’re coming to me for advice!

Sian Welby, who I used to work with on the breakfast show is around four weeks out from us, so she’s asking me for advice, but I can only give little tips on what’s happened in the first few weeks.

Again, there’s not really much advice anyone’s given me, but nor would I want to give to anyone else. The only thing that I’ve said to people when they ask what’s it like is that it’s genuinely the best thing ever. People scare you so much and go, oh, you’re never going to sleep, and you won’t have a life anymore. But I’ve loved every second of it. I love my job but I don’t want to leave home at the minute I’m having such a good time.

thortful: What have been your main learnings over the first few weeks?

Sonny: The first few weeks have been so much better than I expected them to be. I feel like people scare you so much and say, “you’re not going to leave the house for six weeks.” But Danielle and I have been to the pub, enjoying the weather, doing all the normal stuff!

I find myself so lucky that I’ve been able to do that sort of stuff because I know people struggle in the first few couple of weeks. I’ve just loved spending time at home. I’ve got two dogs, and I remember when we had them as puppies, you just watch them every second and enjoy what they do. It’s the same with having a daughter, just looking at the little silly faces she pulls, and all that sort of stuff is great.

thortful: Do you have any tips for people with a newborn?

Sonny: There was one little hack that I did actually text my friend. I couldn’t get her to settle so I put her in the car seat and jogged around the house with her, must have looked mad to the neighbours but it worked and meant I didn’t have to drive the car.

thortful: Did you feel the instant bond with Mia? Like when your baby first holds your finger, was the connection there straight away?

Sonny: I felt it the most as soon as we got home. We had to stay in overnight and it was this weird thing of we were staying in a hospital, rather than our own home. It was odd staying in the hospital overnight, but as soon as we got home and we’re in our own environment and you realise that you’ve just arrived home with an extra human!

We haven’t lived here for long, and it’s just been the two of us, but now there’s a whole new vibe to the house, it felt so right.

Sonny Jay and his daughter, Mia

Photo credit: Tiny Posers

thortful: What are you excited most about, about being a dad?

Sonny: I don’t wish my life away too much, but I’m really looking forward to her developing her characteristics and personality. I’ve got a couple of mates with babies that are a bit older than me, and I get excited about the little days out they tell me about.

Wholesome weekends and going out with my mates who’ve already got kids, going to theme parks, and that kind of thing, I can’t wait for that. I don’t want to wish our lives away because she’s so small and I feel like she’s just about smiled at me in the last three weeks, it’s all baby steps but there’s amazing times ahead.

thortful: How drastically has it affected your life, and what are the key changes you’ve noticed over the last few weeks?

Sonny: I guess the key changes so far have been the lack of sleep and just the responsibility. You know you bring this human home, and they solely just rely on you. I’ve got dogs which has always felt like a responsibility, but this is on another level.

You can leave dogs alone for some periods but with a baby, you need to raise them, and you don’t spend a minute without them. We’ve been with her the whole time, and I’ve loved every second of it.

thortful: Are you still able to prioritise your own self-care?

Sonny: Me and Danielle have got none-negotiables that we said at the beginning that we both want to be able to do. Just little things like showering every day, Danielle gets her hair done, I’ll have a shave, it seems silly but just small tasks that give you time to reset.

It’s just about working out and organising time for you to both be able to have these things that you want to do. I used to train a lot and I haven’t got back into that yet but that’s another non-negotiable that at some point when I feel ready to do it I want to be able to have at least half an hour to be able to go downstairs and get on the exercise bike again.

I’m good at getting on the exercise bike as it means I don’t have to faff leaving the house to go to the gym. As long as I’ve got that and can fit some cardio in I’ll be happy. Danielle used to be a dancer so I know she’s keen to get back to it, but right now we’re just doing what we can to work around Mia.

thortful: What’s the reaction at Capital been?

Sonny: Work were amazing because obviously I booked some time off work not knowing when the baby was going to come, so they sorted out someone to cover me at any point which I’m so grateful for.

I’ve had so much support from work. It’s been incredible, they’re asking if I’m ready to come back and if I need more time. I’d love to stay at home with Mia forever but

I’ve got to get back into it all and find the work-life balance sooner rather than later.

I’m lucky that I get to spend the day at home and then go to work in the evening and I can’t complain about it being a tough job. I just go and talk a load of rubbish on air for a couple of hours haa.

thortful: With radio being a constant, is it tough to get time off?

Sonny: They’re very good at being able to replace someone. I used to do it back in the day for other people. If someone was ill they’d call me up on the day and ask if I could do it. I’ve been lucky that people have covered me for two and a half weeks.

Even now I’m back in, I’m home at about half one in the morning. So I can get back and probably do a night feed, I’m sure it will work out well. Marvin Humes used to do the show before me, he’s had three kids and has made it work!

thortful: Has anything surprised you about becoming a dad? Any shocks to the system or anything that you just didn’t expect at all?

Sonny: It’s surprised me how Danielle and I have just kicked into being parents. I find it so odd how one day you’re not a parent and then suddenly you’ve just got this massive responsibility. The only thing genuinely that I found so difficult is being up in the night feeding. Doing a night feed and not falling asleep – I’m literally shaking my head trying to do everything. Scrolling on TikTok just to keep my eyes open, I’ve found that hard. I would say that’s the hardest part of it so far.

thortful: What do you think your approach to fatherhood is going to be in terms of having open conversations and approaching the tough chats?

Sonny: I think it’s important to be open and I think it’s hard having the balance and obviously I won’t know this until she’s older and we can work out her character. Will she be shy? Will she be quite openly spoken? I don’t know. But I think it’s important to me and Danielle especially, we communicate so well with each other at the moment. We’re constantly asking how each other are and if there’s anything we can do to help each other because it’s quite an intense time.

I would like to think that as Mia gets older that we will have that approach with her and that she’d be able to talk to us about a lot. And I feel like as a parent, it’s funny because you have different relationships with your mum and your dad, don’t you? So, we’ll see how it all pans out.

I’d like to be the sort of dad that would be like, “well, listen, don’t tell your mum, but you can do this.” Because then I feel like if Danielle does the same on her side, that she might feel like she can say these sorts of things discreetly to either of us without it being a big thing. But as long as she’s telling someone and as long as she’s open, we’ll be happy.

Mental health is such a big thing now. When I was growing up, I didn’t even know what mental health was. You weren’t taught about it at school, it’s only recently (and rightfully so), that it’s been spoken about because so many people are affected by it. I lost a mate to mental health, so it would be weird to not want to have open chats with my own daughter about that sort of stuff. I think it’s so important. And I feel like no matter how much work is put into that sort of stuff, like mental health being spoken about in schools, it’s just still not enough. We must be having those chats and create a safe space at home.

thortful: Finally, how will you be celebrating your first Father’s Day as a dad?

Sonny: Well, the timing hasn’t worked out because I’ll be working at the Capital Summertime Ball on that day. But we’re going to celebrate the day before because it’s my first one. I find it crazy because it really hits home that I’m now a dad and can celebrate that day as one!

Maybe I could take her with some little headphones on for a backstage tour to meet people and experience something amazing at such a young age, we’ll see.