Comedy actress Sally Phillips talks about being a mum to Oliver, 7, Luke, 4 and her new baby boy
Did you always plan to be a mum?
I’m not very good at planning anything. Not that my children were accidents – I mean, I was married and everything! But for some reason I was still surprised when it happened. I’d always been the loony lady on the tube pulling faces at babies though, so although it wasn’t always consciously in my mind, I think I would’ve been gutted if I hadn’t ended up being a mum.
Describe birth in one word.
Who’s your biggest parenting influence?
I did toy with the idea of saying Katie Price for a minute, but obviously it’s my parents! I have actually collected bits from all over. I worked with someone who told me that when she was little, her dad used to roll out old wallpaper in the garden, fill potties with paint, and the kids would sit on the potties then bounce down the garden doing bum prints on the paper. And I thought, that’s just brilliant and hilarious, and that’s the kind of mum I want to be. We haven’t done bum prints, but we do ‘slidey’ painting with a giant piece of card, where we squirt poster paints and the boys slide around in it.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
The children. Ha! No seriously, I suppose I love being able to actually make it better for someone. I can genuinely make life better for my son by proving to him that there is definitely not a wolf with hands under his bed.
What’s your idea of a perfect family day?
Just managing to get everyone out of the house and then enjoying something they didn’t expect to enjoy. Maybe going to the theatre, followed by a picnic in the park, followed by a muddy bike ride, then going home and everyone eating something I’ve made, and the children going upstairs and going straight to sleep without screaming, and then watching a film with my husband.
How did you choose Oliver’s name?
Actually my mother chose it and, well, I think I like it! We were so unprepared because we really thought we were having a girl, and there was a moment when we were sitting in a shopping centre saying, ‘What will we do if it’s a boy? We have no names for a boy!’ I turned round and saw Ed’s Diner, and was saying, ‘Ed? Eddie?!’ And my husband looked the other way and saw Nando’s… actually, he’s Spanish so that might have worked really well. Nando Bermejo!
I was prepared with the second baby. My mother picked him up and said, ‘Jack?’ and we said, ‘No, Luke, Luke!’ I love the film Cool Hand Luke and all the Lukes I know are nice people. I also thought a Luke can be anything he wants to be. He could be an accountant or be in a band, and being called Luke wouldn’t be preposterous for either life – I think that’s important. Whereas I know someone called Aragorn, and as it happens, he actually is a painter who lives on a Caribbean island, which is lucky given that was probably the only career option open to him.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Quite recently I was told by someone very wise that as a parent you need to do things that make you happy, because what you can give your children is who you are. If you adopt a character, perhaps being some Gina Ford type, and that’s not you, you’re not giving them what their genes need. I guess she was saying that if you really want to go and travel round Iceland in a sleigh or whatever, then you should try to impart that enthusiasm to your kids.
And your advice for new mums?
I’m tempted to say put your copy of The Contented Little Baby in the bin, but to be fair, it does work for some people – it’s worked for my brothers. Otherwise, just trust your instincts; forget the rules and figure out what works for your family.
Biggest mistakes you’ve made?
I think I’ve underestimated the importance of routines, probably because I hate them. Routines are agony for me – as soon as there are any rules, I want to break them. But actually, I think children like to know where they are and are happier with rules and a bit more structure. Weirdos!
What makes the boys laugh?
They laugh really easily, we’re very good at that. Oliver, my eldest, has Down’s Syndrome and one of the really positive things people don’t really talk about is all the unexpected moments you have as a family. The boys do lots of shows for us and then Ollie, who’s really bossy, says, ‘Now crap, CRAP!’ He has trouble with his Ls and Rs!
What’s been your most embarrassing moment with the kids?
The negative side of Down’s Syndrome is the tantrums. So the worst thing is being out in a public place with one child screaming and the other one trying to kill you – and then having people recognise you. It happens to us quite a lot!
And your biggest panic?
Ollie runs off, and he’s quite fast. We expect it now so we’re never more than a few metres behind. But once he got out, got to a main road, and was intercepted by a neighbour.
Who’s your fantasy babysitter?
Fireman Sam, probably. He’s quite sensible and grown up, isn’t he?
What would you invent for new mums?
A cake with magical powers. It wouldn’t make you fat, but would impart all the nutrients you need for you and your baby, and it would negate the need for sleep.
Sally is promoting Boots Opticians Mix & Match offer.
She was chatting to Pip Jones