The BBC premiered their new documentary Monday night, Rio & Kate: Becoming A Stepfamily, and it proved to be a moving, touching and emotional love story, as the couple battled against judgment from family and friends, fought to overcome heartbreak, and to care for three grieving little children.
In 2016, Rio Ferdinand lost his wife Rebecca to cancer, then two years later his mother died too, from the same disease. It was around that time that the former footballer met reality star Kate Wright, and unexpectedly fell head over heels in love.
One year later, Kate moved in with Rio, along with his two sons and daughter, and not surprisingly, it’s been an emotional and difficult time for everybody as they adjust to life as a blended family.
Absolutely sobbing my heart out, what a beautiful family
Kate was open about the emotional turmoil and anxiety she’s battled as she tries to get used to being a stepmom, and also admitted to finding it difficult to live in another woman’s shadow, not to mention her house.
There were memories of Rebecca everywhere throughout the house, wedding photos spread all over, the exact same decor and kitchen, and even her clothes still packed away in a cupboard.
“I feel like people don’t see this side of things, like all of Rebecca’s clothes are in the cupboard,” Kate shared. “I can’t explain the feeling, but I just feel really guilty, to even be in here. I feel bad because, like, why should this all be in here, but then, should I be in the cupboard?”
In addition to constantly seeing reminders of Rebecca all throughout the house, and feeling like a “stranger” in her new home, Kate was honest and frank about how much she was struggling with being a stepmum.
Thankfully, Rio was aware of how difficult a situation his soon-to-be wife had been thrust into, and he was compassionate and empathetic about her situation.
“This is a scary scenario to walk into like there are so many dynamics, that can throw you off,” he said. “Are the kids gonna like me, do the kids want me here? Am I going to get on with them? Am I going to be compared to their mum all the time?
“Am I getting things wrong? What do they like? What do I do when they wake up in the middle of the night? Do I discipline them, how do I discipline them – is that too far, too little? What would their mum do?
“It ain’t easy, there is no manual that tells you how to become a stepmum. So you’re almost learning on the job.”
Kate echoed her beau’s worries, admitting: “I do feel like I’m winging it, I can’t ring someone and say what do I do? Nobody’s partner’s passed away and their kids haven’t got a mum. No-one knows what to say. I know I’m caring and I just go with that… it’s going to be alright but it may not be the best way to do it.”
It was startling clear exactly how much Kate cares for and loves the kids, as well as Rio, obviously, and she beats herself up continually by worrying she’s not doing things right by them, or that they’re consumed with grief and she’s not helping them enough.
It was actually genuinely moving, and more than a tad heartbreaking.
Rio also has the same concerns when it comes to his three children, their grief and their future happiness. He’s also obviously concerned for Kate and how he can help her transition into her new role in the family.
“We don’t want to wake up one day and say we did that wrong, and the kids are unhappy. It’s all about the kids, and about us, being happy as a five,” he said.
“I thought I’m never going to be happy again I’ll never meet anyone, I was just really content with being just me and the kids and that was all I thought we were going to be. Then something just happened. I met Kate and we just got on, it just happened man and here we are today, fast forward, we’re getting married.”
Meanwhile, Kate admitted to never seeming to know what was the “right” or “wrong” thing to do when it came to step-parenting.
“I just panic and worry about everything but I think it’s just such a unique situation to be in,” she admitted. “I don’t know what’s right or wrong. I just worry that when the kids grow up and they’re older that they’ll say, ‘I hate Kate, we didn’t like this and we didn’t like that,’ and I just don’t want them to feel anything like that really because I’m trying the best I can to get it right.”
Kate is clearly trying everything in her power to be a good stepmum, and she’s also doing everything she can to help keep the memory of Rebecca alive for her kids.
“It’s Mother’s Day this weekend, the children write cards to their mum and their nan, we laminate them so that when they’re at the cemetery they last longer rather than getting wet and damaged,” Kate explained.
“So I’m actually laminating them now. I always write a message from me because after all I am looking after and bringing up her children with Rio.
“This is my card to Rebecca, I say happy Mother’s Day, we’re all thinking of you today, especially the children. I wish you were here to see how far they have come, I know,” she carried on, before breaking down in tears.
“Sorry, I don’t know why but it makes me so sad, I feel like I’m grieving for someone that I didn’t know. It’s weird because I’ve taken on the children and there’s all that emotion.”
“I wish you were here to see how far they have come,” she continued. “I know you are and would be, so proud of them. We are celebrating you today, I hope I am doing a good job of looking after them for you, it’s a hard job but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Always thinking of you, lots of love, Kate.”
The whole family headed off to the cemetery on Mother’s Day to pay their respects to both Rebecca, and to Rio’s late mum.
They held a beautiful little ceremony, placed flowers on the graves, along with the cards, and released balloons into the air.
It soon became apparent why it’s been even more difficult for Kate to meld into her new family life, as the couple have faced a lot of judgment and opposition to their relationship from friends and family members, including Rio’s own father, Julian.
“I’m very opinionated on some days, and she does not like my opinion,” Julian admitted to his son during a fitting for their wedding suits together. “Because I’m very direct with her and straightforward. Someone new coming in, you’ve got to be a little bit cautious.
“She came in, it was hard, not just for myself, for most everyone, you know, and if she was not strong-minded we’d have walked away.”
Rio went on to admit that it wasn’t only his dad who had been a problem when it came to his relationship with Kate.
“My dad’s not the only one, there’s been other members of my family, members of Rebecca’s family, that at different points have made the situation more difficult than we feel it should have been.,” he shared.
“And I understand that people, especially at the beginning found it hard to see me with another woman. But she shouldn’t be judged for that she’s not here trying to take anyone’s role or anything, I love her, we love each other and she loves these kids.”
Meanwhile, Kate visited her therapist to talk through her anxiety issues and feelings of being a “failure”.
“I feel like a failure a lot, and people say this is Rebecca’s house,” she admitted. “Oh no no, you don’t do it like this, that’s not how Rebecca likes it and I think, but I’m not Rebecca. I can’t cook and a few times people said, Rebecca could do that and this and I’d be like, oh I can’t.
“I felt like I was being picked on by a lot of close people and I just thought I don’t know what to do, but I love Rio and I love the kids, I’m never going to be good enough. I need to know I’m doing the right thing and need people who can help me with the kids, it’s not just about everybody else.”
In a bid to help solve their dilemma, and ease Kate’s anxiety the couple decided to visit “Happy Steps”, a group therapy program where stepparents meet together to share their issues and tell their stories.
During the meeting, Kate admitted to constantly worrying that she’s not meeting the standards expected of a stepmum, and went on to share that she sometimes feels like a stranger in her new home.
“I’m in this house that isn’t mine and it’s got Rio and Rebecca’s wedding photos, it’s like an out-of-body experience, walking around this house thinking, what am I doing here,” she said.
“But I love you and all my friends are like, you shouldn’t be living in a house with pictures of…. Are you deluded? And I think, am I deluded? Am I losing my mind because I am living in a house with pictures? But I’m doing it for the children.”
After the meeting, Rio made the decision to remove all the photos of Rebecca from the main parts of the house and to create a special room for the kids with all the pictures on the walls, in addition to giving them all pillows with their mum’s face on to sleep with at night.
He also determined that they should completely redecorate the house, including remodeling the kitchen, so Kate would feel more like it was her own home.
“Time has to move on basically,” Rio explained. “There’s got to come to a point where Kate can feel comfortable here and live in her home, and make it her home, and our home as a family.”
After their own successful group meeting, the couple decided to take the kids to a Child Bereavement UK meeting so they could speak with other children going through similar situations.
It was clearly a success, as the children shared their feelings, opened up about their grief and bonded with the others in the group.
Rio and Kate had suddenly turned a corner, and the family unit was getting stronger by the day.
Then came the happy ending—the couple’s wedding day.
“I didn’t feel this could happen. I said I’ll never meet anyone I said I’m never going to be happy again, but we’re sitting here now and I feel the happiest man about,” Rio said in a pre-wedding interview.
“I’m happy again. You feel you’ve been dealt a terrible hand, and you have, but luck can change and from what I’ve seen it does happen to other people as well. So be confident it can happen, it’s going to go through rocky times and bad times but you’ll come through the other side.”
Viewers were equally as moved by the inspiring love story, taking to Twitter to share their thoughts on the documentary.
I have absolute respect for @rioferdy5 and Kate #ferdinand for being so open about their struggles as a #stepfamily.
Footballers get a lot of bad press for their private lives with judging eyes around every corner. Both are doing an amazing thing #rolemodels 👏🏼 #family
— Chris Peachey (@Chris_Peachey) February 10, 2020
Great documentary, however not completely real as most step families have kids both sides.
Shame there wasn’t a documentary about rio’s mum as clearly was in believable until her death
— Matthew Rutland (@MatthewRutland8) February 11, 2020
Absolutely sobbing my heart out! 😭What an amazing family ❤️#rioandkatebecomingastepfamily
— 💛.. (@Carlielukexx) February 11, 2020
I cried the whole way through the first documentary @rioferdy5 made and the trend continued tonight. So much admiration for your kids and how they are dealing with there grief. Talking helps even if we don’t realise it #rioandkatebecomingastepfamily
— Aisling Bermingham (@ashybashy) February 11, 2020
— John edgerton (@Sheva79) February 11, 2020
In absolute tears watching #rioandkatebecomingastepfamily 😢 Nothing but respect and love for that family ❤️
— Georgia (@geojaynet) February 10, 2020
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