Sunday, 19 April 2015
Jenni Falconer: My precious moments
TV and radio presenter Jenni Falconer says nothing prepares you for the immense love you'll feel for your baby – or for how you'll value other mums' advice
Did you always plan to be a mum?
Yes, and when I was growing up I assumed I would have a family much earlier than I did. Maybe I thought my life would mirror my mum's. My brother became a dad in his 20s, and he thought becoming a mum in your 30s was really old. It's nice that it did happen, because you never know if it's going to be an easy thing or something you'll struggle with.
How was pregnancy for you?
Absolutely fine. You know what's brilliant? You don't have to worry about your stomach line, you can wear a tight dress and it's all just there! I loved the way my body changed, and enjoyed the shape I became. I wore Lycra all the time as it was so comfy. But I didn't enjoy not being able to exercise as hard as usual.
Describe birth in one word
Shock! People had warned me, and I'd said, 'Yeah, whatever.' Now I get why people don't really talk about it until you've joined that club.
Who's your biggest parenting influence?
When I was pregnant I phoned my sister-in- law a lot. She already had a son, and her daughter was born just six months before Ella (who's nearly three). She's a brilliant mum, but she does things quite differently to me. You can admire the way other people parent their children, but your attitude, morals and way of disciplining are all your own.
Did you share tips with other mums?
Oh yes. There are so many things you don't know you'll need to know until you give birth. My NCT friends and I shared everything. I used to email in the middle of the night – even at 3am you want to know if people are going through the same things! I worked on an SMA Nutrition campaign, B.A.B.Y. (Baby Advice By You), all about mums giving their one golden nugget of advice. It was brilliant, because sometimes you don't want to read a whole book, it's too formal, but you get reassurance from mums in the same situation as you. There's a certain honesty to it.
What's the best advice you've been given?
It was from my husband – isn't it annoying when they see things so clearly? He said, 'She's our daughter, she will be fine. We are her parents, and we will do what works for us.'
Favourite thing about being a mum?
I never expected to love my little girl so much! Sometimes she'll come in to me in the night – I hear her coming, because she has a rabbit with a bell in it! – saying 'Hi, mummy!' James whisks her off, but I love that she comes in.
Perfect family day?
We try to have at least Saturday or Sunday all together, but ideally the whole weekend. And it can be as simple as going for a walk. We went to Bournemouth a few weeks ago. Ella scooted all the way along the prom, and had her first fish and chips by the beach. On days like that you feel like you're making memories.
What have you had to give up?
Making anything else a priority! And also spontaneity, of course. That said, I find ways round it. I've just joined a gym with a crèche that Ella loves. I don't go out much now either. I work such early mornings anyway, which makes it hard, but I actually love giving Ella her dinner and putting her to bed.
Biggest mistakes you've made?
Buying far too many clothes when she was a baby. The whole clothing thing is a nightmare actually. Maybe it'd be nice to have our own little Harper Beckham, but it's completely pointless being precious about clothing.
What has Ella taught you?
Easy. How to be patient.
Most embarrassing moment with her?
Now she's potty-trained, we'll be in a restaurant and she comes back from the toilet telling everyone she's just done a pee-pee or a poo- poo. I think she expects everyone to applaud her. Also, on holiday, I was carrying her across the beach and she was grabbing onto my top. She came very close to exposing me.
And your biggest panic?
We went to the cinema, and I took my neighbours' children too. We were standing in a queue and I turned away for about ten seconds – when I looked back, they had all gone. They were only away from me for a minute, and I found them all sitting on a seat together. But for those moments, the thoughts that go through your head...
What could you do better?
You always feel guilty about something. But honestly, I don't think you can ever really do any better than you're doing already, as long as what you're doing is right for you.
What does her dad do better than you?
It's so irritating! He's always calm and relaxed. I'm the one who's with her most of the time, and she can be so difficult with me. But he'll swan in and the next minute she's laughing!
I think, 'How did you do that? It's not fair!'
Has she ever shocked you?
So many times, but in a good way. The other day there was a spectrum of light on the rug. She said, 'Look mummy, a rainbow!' I didn't even know she knew the word. You almost feel like you've been cheated when they learn things without you teaching them!
What do mums have to accept?
That your life is different. I now accept, for example, that when I go on holiday I definitely will not be reading a book!
What's your guilty pleasure?
Just sitting down and relaxing. Eating biscuits. And watching any kind of TV. It's not very exciting, but it's my guilty pleasure because it happens so rarely.
What product would you invent for mums?
An instruction manual that worked on every child.
Jenni was chatting to Pip Jones at the launch of SMA's new campaign B.A.B.Y. (Baby Advice By You).
The SMA page is now open for mum's to submit their own best pieces of advice. To share your own best piece of advice, add yours here.