I have three boys, Buzz, Buddy and Max, with my husband Tom. We’ve been married for eight and a half years but have known each other for 22. We’ve lived in our current house, just outside London, for over 14 years, too. We’ve looked into moving a few times, but we feel very lucky to live where we do, and it works with our set up of working from home – I just wish it was closer to the boys’ school.
Tom and I met at Sylvia Young Theatre School when we were 13. It was my first day and he was the first person I spoke to in my class. There was something about him that I was drawn to straight away. He was cheeky, talkative and had adorable dimples. We dated on and off for years – there was something about the connection between us that kept us pulling us together. The last time we ‘got back together’ was when we were 18.
I had always wanted to be a mother. Tom and I talked a lot about when we would start trying, and before we got married, I decided to come off my pill to give my body a bit of a ‘breather’. It was then I discovered I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and that things might not be as easy as we’d hoped. The uncertainty led us to start ‘not not trying’ to get pregnant.
When it came to announcing my pregnancy with Buzz, we wanted to find a fun creative project and a unique way to share our news. We decided to go with the season and carve pumpkins - it was incredible to receive the love we did following the message we put out [YouTube video].
Physically, I felt amazing when I was pregnant with Buzz. I had so much respect for my body. Being pregnant the second time with a toddler in tow was a little more challenging – simply because you aren’t able to put your feet up anymore. The third pregnancy felt a lot tougher on my body. It was knackered and hurt. That said, I loved having my bumps and feeling my babies moving around inside me. It’s such a wonderful bond.
Those early days with my first baby were pretty overwhelming. I always knew I was a maternal person, but the huge shift of responsibilities, priorities and control came as a shock. I was pretty frazzled. I wanted people to see that I was coping and taking to it like it like a duck to water, but I was drowning inside. It took me a while to find my groove.
Becoming a mother has made me more focused – I can’t dawdle and waste time any more. If I’m not with my kids I need to make the most of that time and use it properly. When I say that, I’m usually talking about getting work done rather than taking myself to a spa! I spend far less time worrying about what others think now, too. I’m too busy trying to bring up my kids. It’s also taught me to be more patient… and that there’s always time to learn more and better yourself.
When I was growing up, I thought my mum and dad had all the answers. It’s only through having children of my own that I see they didn’t. That’s the hardest part because you’re trying to navigate and do the right thing, hoping you’re arming your child with the right tools to face life and all of its complexities. As a mother, I think I’m a mixture of strict and relaxed, depending on what the situation calls for – I just wish I had been told that no-one knows what they’re doing, and everyone is just making it up.
If I were to tell first-time mums anything, it would be to take on board all the advice, and then forget about it. Everyone means well but the advice is always conflicting – and therefore confusing – making the whole thing more overwhelming than it needs to be. Find a way that works for you and your baby. As for those of us trying to be the best parents during a pandemic, don’t beat yourself up if things go pear-shaped occasionally. Do what you can, because that’s the best you can do.
It was while on the book tour for Happy Mum, Happy Baby when I realised how important the conversations around motherhood were. I had mothers bursting into tears because my account had let them know they weren’t on their own. The podcast was made for other people to share their accounts and I know it’s helped so many parents and non-parents understand the highs and lows we all face. We’ve managed to create a safe space that’s free of judgemental voices.
All of my guests have left lasting impressions. When you’re recording, it’s such an intimate thing. You pay attention to every breath and pause. Each episode feels like some sort of therapy – for me and the guest. It’s so rare that we get to sit down for a couple of hours and really talk about motherhood without distractions. Not only that, we are so busy looking forwards and planning ahead we don’t often have the opportunity to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come.
If anything, I think I have more drive and determination in my career now than I did before I had children. I want women to know they’re not on their own and I want to give them a bit of escapism with my work – whether that’s with a podcast, the virtual meet-up or a book I’ve written. In terms of a work/life balance, that’s something I’ll always be juggling. When Emma Freud was on the podcast, she said she still gets the diary out each week and crosses things out to ensure she’s got a good work/home balance – and her kids are all young adults. I don’t imagine that equilibrium we all dream about will ever just happen. It’s something you have to work on. Ultimately, organisation is key.
Every part of my life has fed into how I parent in some way. We’re constantly learning, and we know our own early years have a huge impact on who we are and the way we form relationships. One thing I would say is that as a child, I was allowed to get bored. It wasn’t a scary word. In that boredom I found creativity and used my imagination. For that reason, I don’t fill every second of the day for my kids with activities led by me. Instead, it’s wonderful to just watch them discover some things for themselves.
I want my children to be caring and compassionate, but also to do things they love. Don’t look left and right to see if everyone else is on the same path – a little deviation can be fun, rewarding and enlightening. As for more children… Who knows? I’m just grateful for the family I have right now.