Happy Mum, Happy Baby: The Duchess of Cambridge transcript
Read the full Podcast conversation, discussing motherhood and the London Early Years Foundation.
In her first ever podcast interview, The Duchess talks about her passion for the early years, her aims for the survey and opens up about her experience of motherhood
Having met in Birmingham at the launch of 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives, The Duchess of Cambridge and Giovanna sat down after a joint visit to LEYF Stockwell Gardens Nursery in London to talk about the work that has built up to this landmark survey, the importance of the early years, and some of their shared experiences as mothers to three children.
This Early Years episode with The Duchess discusses the 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives – a quick, online survey which aims to spark a national conversation on the early years that will ultimately help bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come. It is designed to bring together the thoughts of as many people as possible – recognising that everyone has a role in ensuring strong, healthy foundations for the youngest in our society that will positively affect their lifelong outcomes.
The launch of the survey followed eight years of work by The Duchess of Cambridge in which she has explored how experiences in early childhood often lie at the root of the hardest social challenges the country faces today. What we experience in the earliest years – from in the womb to the age of five – is instrumental in shaping our future lives. Her Royal Highness has spent time meeting with families across the country and hearing about the issues they deal with day-to-day, in addition to speaking with academics, experts, organisations and practitioners. In May 2018, The Duchess convened a steering group of experts to focus on how to bring about positive, lasting change in this area.
The online survey can be found at 5bigquestions.org.uk
The podcast episode can be found here - Happy Mum Happy Baby: The Duchess of Cambridge podcast
Giovanna Fletcher (G)
Duchess of Cambridge (D)
G: Hello and welcome to a very special episode of Happy Mum, Happy Baby: The Podcast.
Today we’re recording from a nursery in Stockwell, London where I’ve just finished an engagement with The Duchess of Cambridge!
The Duchess is on a tour around the UK meeting parents and caregivers as she launches her UK-wide survey, 5 questions for the under-fives which look into our hopes for the future generations.
To take part in the survey please go to 5BigQuestions.org.uk
But first It’s my absolute pleasure, and you can tell I’m nervous because I’m talking so fast, but it’s my absolute pleasure and honour to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge.
D: Hello. Thank you, don’t worry I’m equally as nervous so don’t worry at all.
G: Well, let’s talk about today, because we’re at a nursery with the London Early Years Foundation and we’ve spoken to parents about the importance of early years. You’ve been so busy working in early years for a very long time.
D: Yes, it has been quite a journey and actually I’m excited now to be talking about this a bit more publicly, but since I got married, I’ve been looking into this as a huge passion, and going out and listening to what makes people tick and the things that unify people, but also the struggles that people are facing right in the early days, meeting lots of people who are struggling with addiction, homelessness, abuse and things like that, you really get moved by some of the challenges that people are facing and it’s really heart-breaking to hear.
And the more you look into everybody’s experiences, so many of those hardest social challenges really get traced right back to the earliest years of somebody’s life.
And you hear that time and time again across the nation, across the world, you hear the really sad reality that what we experience in our childhood really has a lifelong impact on our future health and happiness.
So I suppose that has really driven my interest in digging deep into the early years landscape, speaking to academics, speaking to doctors, practitioners, charities, and all those within the sector to try and work out some of what could be done to help prevent some of these really sad social challenges that I think all of us witness across the country.
G: And now you’ve started talking to more and more parents and you’ve taken it UK-wide with the survey.
D: Yes, well I think ultimately if you look at who’s caring and looking after and nurturing children in the most vital period from pregnancy all the way to the age of five, you know parents and carers are right at the heart of that, and families are right at the heart of that, and although I’ve spoken to the scientists and the service providers, it’s so important to listen to families. What is it that they aspire to? What are their challenges?
What we’re doing with the survey is asking people – what is it that matters for them in raising their children today.
G: Is it an area that you cared about before even becoming a mum?
D: Yes, it was because lots of people say ‘Oh I know why you’re doing your work – you’re a mum now and it’s obviously an interest.’ Yes, there is that personal element. I’ve learnt a huge amount. There’s stuff that I would have done so differently, you know, right at the beginning considering what I’ve learnt now.
But yes I think it was really shocking actually to see how - challenges that we see in society - how so much of that is connected through poor mental health and then looking back on to often traumatic experiences in early childhood, and that I felt such an important period to really look into, pre-having children.
And I suppose it’s only emphasised it more now being a parent myself and knowing some of the challenges, some of the pressures, some of the things that might be stopping or being a hindrance to those either reaching out for help or really providing the best support and care for the children in their care.
G: And that’s a huge part of it, isn’t it? It’s opening up a conversation so that people become a bit more aware and understanding of what others are going through.
D: Exactly and I don’t know whether it’s part of everyday conversation – I think there’s sort of a mixed feeling that either those who are doing it publicly ‘very well’ and they’ve got no challenges at all and this idea that everything’s hunky dory and it’s easy versus those who are really finding it hard, but actually there’s so much that I’ve found that no matter what walk of life you’ve come from, there’s so many things that really unify parents and families in their struggles, but also in their aspirations too. That’s really powerful I think, to find ways in which we can unify people to work together to try and face some of today’s hardest problems.
G: Because you find I think that talking to different mums, everyone has something in common – it doesn’t matter who you are, what you have, what you do, there’s so many elements that overlap and we can connect through – whether it’s a sleepless night, whether it’s getting to the end of the day and thinking ‘I’ve been a terrible mum today, I’ve failed as a mum today’ – the guilt of having to go out to work – there’s so many little elements that if you don’t talk about them, they can become so heavy on you – and actually talking about it and having these conversations out there, it lifts everyone up.
D: Yeah, it’s so true. And we saw that through the Heads Together campaign, just with mental health in general, there was such a taboo, such a secrecy around actually speaking about emotions and feeling.
So many of the milestones – particularly as a first time mother - lots of the milestones were on physical development, but there wasn’t a huge amount to really highlight the importance of the social emotional development of a child in the early years, and that is I suppose the precursor to be able to talk about your mental health and your mental wellbeing as a teenager or as an adult later in life.
G: Rather than be something that’s just not done.
D: Yeah. And that part of actually understanding – that’s why I think your podcast is so beautifully named because there is such a key link you know – Happy Mum, Happy Baby – there is scientific evidence around how the mother feels – how the parents or the carers who are looking after the children in their care– the direct link between family wellbeing and then the happiness and wellbeing of the children in their care.
G: I have to say that so many people since the survey launched, have talked to me about it. It’s one of those things.
D: Have they?
G: Yeah, everyone’s been doing it. Have you been surprised by the reaction? Because obviously you were hoping for a good one, but I’ve just seen amazing responses – people sort of debating it or starting the questions and going ‘Oh I can’t even answer the first question – what do I think?!’
D: I know – but if nothing else, I’m really glad people are thinking about it, and I think with some of the questions we didn’t want to be too specific. There was one mother I recently chatted to and she said “Oh, I’ve been on google and I’m not really sure” and I was like “No, there’s no right or wrong answer!”
G: Like you’re going to judge her.
D: Exactly! I’m not going to mark you at the end – that’s why it had to be anonymous. It’s quick so that everyone can hopefully take part in it and just start having those conversations - without any judgement!
G: I’m looking forward to seeing what the results show and where it all leads.
D: Yes! I think that will be really fascinating, because one of the privileges of being in the family and having the job that I do – you end up meeting a lot of people, talking to a lot of people from all walks of life – and sometimes I feel I know the things that people are struggling with, but you’re always surprised as someone else would say something, it’s like ‘Wow gosh’. It takes a totally different turn, totally different.
I think we’re all focused on our own environment, our own world and things like that and actually sometimes it’s really good to look outside that, and think what are the things that lots of other people in society, or in your community even, that are struggling with the same things, and actually how can everyone pull together to try and do the best they can – particularly in this early phase which has such long – lifelong – implications later down in life.
G: I think there’s a massive thing as well where there’s a lot of pressure on parents to get it right – so they don’t want to say, ‘I’m struggling, I don’t know what I’m doing’ – all of us don’t know what we’re doing, we’re making it up day to day, but actually when you start hearing people admit that, you’re kind of like ‘Oh it’s fine, we’re all in it together!’
G: So I think there is that pressure and talking about it just gets rid of it.
D: Yeah – I’d be really interested to hear at the end of it what is really the biggest – whether it’s fears and things like that – that the mothers and families feel that are stopping them doing the best job they possibly can.
G: What was your childhood like?
D: I had a very happy childhood. It was great fun – I’m very lucky, I’ve come from a very strong family – my parents were hugely dedicated to us – my siblings. I really appreciate now as a parent how much they sacrificed for us.
G: It’s that typical thing that you always hear – ‘I appreciate my parents so much more now!’
D: But it is really true – you know, they would come to every sports match – I was very keen on sport – they came to every sports match, they’d be the ones on the side-line shouting, and we’d always have our family holidays together.
But I think the things that really resonate with me most are the simple things and actually I see that now with my own children, life now is so busy, so distracting and actually sometimes the simple things like watching a fire on a really rainy day provides such enjoyment.
I remember that from my childhood – doing the simple things, going for a walk together, and that’s really what I try and do with my children as well because it totally strips away all the complications, all the pressures…
G: Yeah it does
D: …as a parent and I think these experiences as well mean so much to children and the world that they’re in which is a real adventure for them at that age.
G: I was reminded the other day of something that me and my family used to do nearly every weekend – and that was to go somewhere like Curry’s or Comet and just play with the fridges and the washing machines – just play grownups! “Great kids, we’re going out! It’s like the olden day soft play – go!”
D: Yeah – go round, checking everything out – seeing what works, what doesn’t work.
G: Exactly! What washing machine do we need?
D: How about you – was your childhood happy?
G: Ah, it was happy at home – everything was happy, I got badly bullied as a kid and it kind of festered into this need to be liked which I’m kind of - since becoming a mum - getting rid of a little bit. So it is interesting for me because I know that parts of my childhood have definitely played a part in the person that I’ve become and my mental health, and that there’s a direct link there – so it’s really interesting.
D: And it’s really fascinating actually - speaking to parents. For example I was at a prison recently and looking at the intergenerational cycle in that particular instance, you’re talking about addiction and things like that and how, as hard as they try and break inter-generational cycles, actually it’s so embedded in family tradition and behavioural patterns and relationships – it is very hard to try and…
G: And that’s difficult as a parent as well, isn’t it – knowing that you’re doing all you can to create positive relationships but then when they go to school or nursery, you’ve got no control over those relationships
D: Well actually, someone used to say, a very wise man did say to me – because I was having doubts and questions about the guilty element of being away for work and things like that – and they said actually almost the nuclear family – the responsibility of the family being the sole people who are in charge and therefore the nurture of their children is solely their responsibility - and they were saying actually we are more like animals than we think we are – we need people around us – the more people you have around your children who are safe and loving and caring, the better.
So yeah – it was a real weight off my shoulders that actually it’s not totally my responsibility to do everything, because you know we all have good days, bad days – and if you can dilute that with others who aren’t on that particular day struggling… I think it makes such a difference for your child, and keeping them as constant and happy as possible.
G: Do you struggle with mum guilt? For having the juggle…
D: Yes absolutely – and anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying! Yep – all the time, yep – and you know even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here – George and Charlotte were like ‘Mummy how could you possibly not be dropping us off at school this morning?’
But no it’s a constant challenge – you hear it time and time again from mums, even mums who aren’t necessarily working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life, they don’t feel they’ve got -
G: There’s always something to feel guilty over
D: Exactly! And always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgements and things like that, and I think that starts from the moment you have a baby!
G: In your tummy! Not even in your arms!
D: Yeah, but also I feel huge responsibility because what I’ve learnt over the last few years is so fascinating and I definitely would have done things differently, even during my pregnancy, than I would have done now...
D: …knowing the importance of the early years – yeah absolutely!
G: Even during pregnancy?
D: Even in pregnancy.
Because you know - the science - and I found that fascinating to see the wellbeing of the mother – not just physically, you know there’s so much information about making sure you exercise and making sure you have a healthy diet and things like that, which yes is definitely important. But the emotional wellbeing of the mother directly impacts the baby that you’re growing, and -
G: But it’s quite difficult with the hormones
D: I know! It’s difficult, and also with life’s challenges and everything like that, it really is hard but actually just being aware of it. I was a lot more aware of it third time round than I was the first-time round.
G: What was your first pregnancy like?
D: It was fine. I got very bad morning sickness, so I’m not the happiest of pregnant people.
G: Have you had it every time or just the first time?
D: Yes, unfortunately. Lots of people have it far, far worse, but it was definitely a challenge. Not just for me but also for your loved ones around you – and I think that’s the thing - being pregnant and having a new-born baby and things like that, impacts everybody in the family.
You know, William didn’t feel he could do much to help and it’s hard for everyone to see you suffering without actually being able to do anything about it.
G: Especially since it’s such an amazing magical time but then you’re just feeling rotten!
D: Yes – utterly rotten! I was really sick – I wasn’t eating the things I should be eating – but yet, the body was still able to take all the goodness from my body and to grow new life, which I think is fascinating.
G: It’s amazing. And am I right in thinking you did hypnobirthing?
G: I did hypnobirthing with all three.
D: Yes – I did! Well actually it was through hyperemesis that I really realised the power of the mind over the body because I really had to try everything and everything to try and help me through it.
G: Are you giggling because you’re thinking about the power of the mind when you’re giving birth?
G: Do you know what I mean? I think it’s something that people are talking about more and more – so when I first had Buzz I remember walking past someone in the park and he was talking about his friend “You know she’s gone all hippy dippy and she’s done hypnobirthing” and I was like that’s me!!
But I wish that more people talked about it because it is an amazing thing! It’s literally just stilling your mind and stopping all that noise, and it’s not ‘hippy dippy’ at all.
D: No – and also there’s levels of it. I’m not going to say that William was standing there sort of, chanting sweet nothings at me. He definitely wasn’t! I didn’t even ask him about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself.
I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that - that they teach you in hypnobirthing - when I was really sick and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful and because it had been so bad during pregnancy, I actually really quite liked labour! Because…
G: It’s so nearly over!
D: … because actually it was an event that I knew there was going to be an ending to! But I know some people do have really, really difficult times, and it’s not for everybody.
G: No, it’s absolutely not. I know lots of people that have gone down that route and ended up having an emergency c-section, but ultimately it’s given them moments of calm, so I think you’ve got to bank those moments up that you are doing that meditation and stuff as moments of calm for you and your baby and then whatever happens, happens. Because there’s so much expectation.
Third time round actually I realised that it was a lot more intense than it had been the previous two times.
D: Yeah, but no pregnancy is the same! No birth’s the same!
G: No, it was the tricksy number three and then I realised that I just wasn’t breathing in the right way – I was literally was just shallow breathing and I was like ‘Ah that’s not going to help me is it?!’
D: You think ‘Well I’ve done this before – I know what I’m doing.’
But that is one of the things actually, spending some time working alongside midwives, speaking to mothers, and things like that, in hospital but also at home – a lot of the home births they do, a lot of the mothers choose to use hypnobirthing as well - but actually one of the things that came up time and time again speaking to mothers and also the midwives was this idea of a mother’s expectation and what they felt they should or what they wanted to happen, and that real sense of disappointment and actually the guilt as well that comes through if things don’t work out the way they think they should have done.
And it’s really hard, almost right from the beginning: the reality that nature does take its course in all shapes and turns and things like that and actually having someone alongside you - that’s why the role of the midwives is so extraordinary because they provide that reassurance that actually things might be different but it’s ok.
It was really amazing to watch how their support really supported the mothers in their care.
G: Because ultimately, everyone’s working towards the same goal and that’s getting your baby out safely. Safely for them and for you.
D: Yeah, but I think lots of mothers do feel that during pregnancy and during labour, they do get a huge amount of support from those around them. There’s lots of information and things like that. I think the challenge is when you’re then sent home with your baby, your new-born baby, particularly as a first-time mother, and you’re like ‘Oh my goodness, am I okay to do this?!’
G: You had quite a mayhem before that! First of all, what was it like when you held Prince George in your arms?
D: Amazing, amazing. It is extraordinary as I’ve said. How can the human body do that? It is utterly extraordinary actually.
And he was very sweet
And also sort of relieved that he was a happy, healthy boy.
G: Did you know he was going to be a boy?
D: I didn’t know, no it was a surprise. But also seeing… you know your husband, William, and things like that. Seeing the pure joy of his face it was really special.
G: It's joy and vulnerability, isn’t it? Everything is broken down, I think when life comes into the world, there’s just a simplicity
D: And that’s what I think, as parents, we have to try and remember, through the complications of our children growing up and things like that. Ultimately, it’s the really
simple things that really do matter and if nothing else that’s what I try and remind myself on a daily basis, through all the work that I’ve done and people I’ve spoken to. Actually, it’s the simple things, even speaking to some of the Holocaust survivors recently. Considering the trauma that they’ve experienced, it’s so reassuring and heart-warming to hear actually it’s the things that matter, I think, to all of us, you know: the strength of family, the simple acts of kindness that make the biggest amounts of difference to everybody. And that is so unifying just thinking about all the things and the difficulties that everyone goes through, whether it’s through pregnancy or through trauma, there’s a lot that unites us in coming to the core values of human kindness really.
G: What was it like knowing that so many people outside, after you’ve given birth and you’re in your little cocoon with your new family, what’s it like?
D: Yeah, slightly terrifying, slightly terrifying, I’m not going to lie.
G: Would you switch on the telly and go, oh no they’re covering this as well, they’re still outside?
D: No it’s hard, I like to decompartmentalise - what’s the word – compartmentalise, yes, the whole thing. Everyone had been so supportive and both William and I were really conscious that this was something that everyone was excited about and you know we’re hugely grateful for the support that the public had shown us, and actually for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public, I felt was really important. But equally it was coupled with a new-born baby, and inexperienced parents, and the uncertainty of what that held, so there were all sorts of mixed emotions.
G: How many hours after given birth did you come out?
D: I… Oh my gosh, I can’t remember. Everything goes in a bit of a blur. I think, yeah I did stay in hospital overnight, I remember it was one of the hottest days and night with huge thunderstorms so I didn’t get a huge amount of sleep, but George did which was really great. I was keen to get home because, for me, being in hospital, I had all the memories of being in hospital because of being sick so it wasn’t a place I wanted to hang around in.
So, I was really desperate to get home and get back to normality.
But I think you think, particularly with your first-born baby, you think everything is going to go back to how it was. I totally underestimated the impact and the change it had on our lives from that moment really and I think, unless you’ve got children, you don’t realise. No amount of planning and preparation can get you ready for that moment.
G: I can remember just sitting and watching and waiting for you to come out of hospital and it was that massive feeling of celebration. Also, The Duke when he put Prince George in the car, that was seamless.
D: But he probably didn’t think so at the time! We were like ‘What do we do?... in a swaddle?’. ‘How’s this supposed to work?!’. We’d even tried to practice with a little baby, like a little doll, at home but you know it just never works out the way you planned it so it was quite hard to do that on the world’s stage, but no, he did a very good job.
G: Was there a sigh of relief when you got in the car and drove off?
D: But also you’re driving away with a new-born baby. I’ve heard stories from mums that took their child out of the car seat and put it on the sofa and didn’t want to touch it because they were worried that they were going to do the wrong thing… you then totally feel responsible.
But I think a lot of what the work that we’ve been trying to do, in terms of looking around the early years, is actually providing that link because you then have the health visitor who comes and does the standard check-ups and things like that… but having had such a wonderful support network through pregnancy and delivery from nurses and midwives, it’s then a very lonely period between then and perhaps going into the educational system, which then picks up in terms for parents that support network but there isn’t a huge amount out there.
There are some incredible communities out there, which I have been to see, that do as much as they can in terms of including parents, but it is quite a lonely period for a mother, and for families really too. Where do they go if they need support, whether it’s for their child or for themselves? And that’s why I’m looking at really trying to join the dots. That’s why I think it’s so important for communities like this, coming together, joining the dots for parents, with the children and the educational system.
G: Yeah, like you say, it’s that thing of when you leave hospital and you get home. I can remember just that eerie silence. You kind of go ‘What?’
D: Yeah, it wasn’t that quiet in our household!
William was like ‘Oh my gosh is this what parenting is going to be like?’
G: What have we done?!
D: No, it took us a bit of time to get ourselves settled and going again but that’s the beauty, I suppose of having a new-born baby. You are pulled to your toughest and most unknown places that you hadn’t necessarily even thought about before.
G: I think you can read all the books, but they don’t read a single thing. They’ve got no idea.
D: It’s almost worse also if you read the books too because actually that again sort of plays into how things should happen and again, can you strip away to just think about the things that are really important for that child so-
G: What parts of your childhood do you want to give your children?
D: I think, if I take the experience from my own childhood, coupled with what I know now and what I’ve learnt from the experts in the Early Years sector, I think there’s a few things that really stand out for me.
One is quality of relationships. So, those moments that you spend with people that are around you. I remember that from my own childhood. I had an amazing Granny who devoted a lot of time to us, playing with us, doing arts and crafts and going to the greenhouse to do gardening, and cooking with us, and I try and incorporate a lot of the experiences that she gave us at the time into the experiences that I give my children now.
There are also the environments that you spend time in as well: a happy home, a safe environment. As children, we spent a lot of time outside and it’s something I’m really passionate about. I think it’s so great for physical and mental wellbeing and laying those foundations. It’s such a great environment to actually spend time in, building those quality relationships without the distractions of ‘I’ve got to cook’ and ‘I’ve got to do this’. And actually, it’s so simple.
I’ve got this one photo of Charlotte smelling a bluebell, and really for me it’s moments like that mean so much to me as a parent, and I try everyday to put moments like that in even if they’re small or even if I don’t have time… but that in an ideal world is what I would like to do.
Yeah, great relationships and happy environments and experiences.
G: So, I’ve recently made a book that’s a series of letters around motherhood. If you could write a letter to anyone about motherhood, who would it be to, and what would you say?
D: That is a very interesting question. Can I write back to myself or is that really weird?
G: You definitely can.
D: I think I’d have liked to have written to myself at the beginning of my pregnancy with my first child, because I think through what I’ve experienced - not only as a mother but also what I’ve learnt on my journey through, digging deeper into the Early Years landscape - I’ve learnt a huge amount that I would really love to go back and tell myself at the beginning of pregnancy, right at the start what things I feel now really matter in terms of being a parent, but also what really matters to the children and my children now.
G: I think you get so consumed with certain things first time round. And you’re like ‘Oh that doesn’t matter now’. We just want a bit of reassurance.
D: Yes. It’s the simple things that really make a difference. It’s spending quality time with your children, it’s not whether you’ve done every single drop off and every single pick up but actually it’s those quality moments that you spend with your child where you are properly listening to them, properly understanding what they feel and if things are going wrong really taking time to think ‘How as a mother am I feeling? Am I actually making the situation worse for my child because this is bringing up all sorts of things I feel rather than just focusing on them and how they might be reacting or responding to certain situations?’. That would be another piece of advice I would like to give myself back then.
G: It’s kind of a bit of reassurance, a bit of guiding. I like that.
D: Someone did ask me the other day, what would you want your children to remember about their childhood?
And I thought that was a really good question because actually if you really think about that, is it that I’m sitting down trying to do their maths and spelling homework over the weekend?
Or is it the fact that we’ve gone out and lit a bonfire and sat around trying to cook sausages that hasn’t worked because it’s too wet? That’s what I would want them to remember, those moments with me as a mother, but also the family going to the beach, getting soaking wet, filling our boots full of water, those are what I would want them to remember.
Not a stressful household where you’re trying to do everything and not really succeeding at one thing.
G: It’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one!
D: There is a lot pressure isn’t there? There was a quote that I read the other day from the founder of The National Trust, Octavia Hill, and it was then the 19th century and she was basically saying that our lives are so busy, our lives are so hectic, all we need is quiet. We need things to be still so that we can really focus on the things that matter. That was in the 19th Century, imagine what she would think now! But it’s so true because actually, you can get so distracted and put so much pressure on yourselves about the things you’re not necessarily achieving, and it distracts you from the things that actually really do matter to the lifelong health and happiness of the children you’re looking after.
G: I mean three kids though, that is chaotic. Speaking personally, trying to find the peace with three kids, it’s easier when they’re out!
D: How old are your boys?
G: 5, 3 and 1.
D: Yes ok, so not much different to George, Charlotte and Louis. Yeah, it’s a bit hectic, you’re pulled in all sorts of directions, because when the third comes along, how can you physically get all three children out of the car at the same time? You can’t.
G: It’s so funny. I also think, first time round, anything that goes near their mouth – ‘What is that? Have we disinfected it? Third time round you’re like ‘Oh he’s eating something. Oh I
think it’s last night’s dinner. Never mind!’
D: It’s so true.
G: So, in that way, nature and nurture… you’ll be amazed to see how differently they grow up with resilience and stuff.
D: Yeah, exactly.
G: First one is continuously sick because he’s never had any germs, third one never sick.
D: Yeah because they’ve sort of got on with it right from the beginning.
There’s such a pull but I am such a hands on mum and whatever you’re doing you want to make sure you’re doing the uttermost best job you can for your children.
How do you find your work / family life balance?
G: Constantly juggling. Constantly feeling like I’m getting it wrong. Once a month, me and my husband sit down and go okay, how can we address this? But we work in the evenings as well, so it’s even affected our relationship as well because you’re spending whatever time you’re not with the kids, working. It’s a juggle but we both feel very lucky that we are creative in our jobs and are essentially playing and we can hopefully bring that into the family life as well because sometimes you kind of go ‘I’m a good person and outside of this I’m really playful so why today am I not playing with you? Why am I just arguing with you about the fact that you have to do your homework?’ It is a juggle.
D: But equally I do think what you’re doing is so important. I know you get a lot of enjoyment obviously from your writing and things like that, but actually getting mothers to speak openly about their experiences, I think that’s what we were really hoping would happen through the survey - is actually to start a conversation, really to start taking down the barriers, trying to address things like judgement and stigma around parenting and caring for children, because I think that’s one of the things that stops people from reaching out for the help that’s needed - even if there’s great services within their communities, they’re not necessarily engaging with them. So, one thing we wanted to do through the survey is get people talking, which is what you do all the time, which I think is fascinating.
G: I was talking to you last week which afterwards I was like our first encounter, I shouldn’t have blurted that out, but how there were figures last year that showed that the leading cause of death in new mums is suicide.
D: Yes. It’s heart-breaking.
G: And it just goes to show though how mental health and that support, it’s so important that we do support, that we take away that judgement and we show people that you don’t have to be perfect and actually talking is fine and your kids aren’t going to be taken away from you if you’re thinking certain thoughts. Certain thoughts are natural and just talk and don’t be afraid of that.
So I think this survey is so important in getting that conversation out there. It’s going to be brilliant.
D: Thank you. Hopefully it’s the first small step into looking at prevention and it’s not just about happy, healthy children. This is actually for lifelong consequences and outcomes.
I was looking at one of the stats. I think there is £17 billion estimated in England and Wales alone that is spent on late intervention and it’s crazy - not only because it’s an economic cost but because there is a huge social cost to our communities and our societies. So that’s really why I’m doing this. It’s going to take a long time – I’m talking about a generational change - but hopefully this is the first small step: to start a conversation around the importance of Early Childhood development.
I finish each podcast, each episode, by starting three sentences that you’re going to finish.
D: Okay. Great.
G: Being a mum means…
G: Since being a mum, I… Compromise!
D: Compromise, yes!
G: Sleep less.
D: Yeah that is the reality! I have found a new enjoyment out of life.
G: That’s lovely. And I’m happy when…
D: I’m with my family outside in the countryside and we’re all filthy dirty.
G: I can’t even tell you what a pleasure it has been to talk to you today and to join you at the engagements, it’s been wonderful.
D: Thank you and well done for all the hard work and important work you do in getting families and mothers and fathers talking about their experiences in parenthood.
G: Thank you.
If you would like to take part in the survey, please go to 5BigQuestions.Org.uk. Bye.