Elaine Cassidy: My Precious Moments
The actress explains how her children Kila, five, and Lynott, two, keep her life in perspective
Did you always want to be a mum?
When I was younger I was very aware of what a huge responsibility it was, but it wasn't until my sister started having children that I began seeing what it really entailed. I realised then that there's no let-up: it's 24/7. It was good, though, because when I did have Kila, I felt prepared. I expected it to be a lot harder. I've shared it all with my husband (actor Stephen Lord) and we're a united front. And because of our work we can do it together.
What's your parenting style?
Basic. You've just got to be disciplined, stick to your word, and show love. If you stick to those guidelines, you can't go far wrong. Lack of sleep is tricky, especially if you're going back to work, still shopping, sorting the house out etc. But you've just got to pull the energy from somewhere, and stick to the rules.
What's the best advice you've been given?
I figured things out for myself after watching a mixture of people – family and experts. I was able to see what my sister and other people had done, and take what I felt was appropriate for me. I discipline my children differently because they respond to different things. With my daughter, if I ban TV, it's effective. But with my son, I have to try something else.
Describe birth in one word...
With Kila, I was in labour for two and a half days, so I was exhausted by the end of it – but the naïvety of not knowing what happened in each stage was a blessing. I had a water birth and managed to get through it pretty much drug-free. When Lynott was born, it was all a lot quicker – nine hours – but more intense.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
The minute I became a mum, I knew I'd joined the best club in the world. Sometimes the bits of gold can be odd things: a funny look they give you, or when you wake up and they come in for a cuddle and they stink but you don't mind. It puts things in perspective. It also makes me a better person. I see them say or do things and think, 'Ooh, I do that!' Sometimes it's a good thing, and sometimes I think, 'Oh, I need to change that about myself!'
How did you name your children?
Stephen and I first heard the name Kila when I was filming in Vancouver. We thought it'd be a nice name if we ever had a girl. With Lynott, we'd had that name for about eight years, but I forgot about it when I was pregnant because I was convinced he was a girl!
What makes them laugh?
My husband is really good at making them laugh. Kila makes Lynott laugh, and he finds it hysterical when people fall over. Whenever my son farts, we'll all have a giggle.
Any embarrassing mum moments?
I encourage my daughter to have well-behaved friends, and when she comes home from school, I ask if everyone played nicely together. One day, when we were out, she pointed to someone and said very loudly, 'Mummy, she's not well-behaved, but don't worry, I won't play with her.' You have to strike the balance of teaching them not to lie, but also to have an awareness of not upsetting people.
What's your perfect family day?
We love the cinema. There's one near us so we do that quite often. And we like going to get fish and chips. My daughter loves arts and crafts, while my son just loves hurling himself around. The thing they love the most is playing monsters. Stephen and I turn into monsters before bedtime and run around after them – they can't get enough of it!
Who'd be your ideal babysitter?
What attribute would you love to pass on?
Being brave yet sensible. I keep the drama for the stage. My daughter seems to be the same. She's brave, but wouldn't do something if it wasn't safe. I'd also like them to be respectful – especially to girls, with regards to my son.
How do you juggle work?
I have a very supportive husband. We do the same job so we understand, and have been a mobile family up until school. We'd set up life wherever one of us was working. But there was no time for friends – if I had a day off, I'd jump on a train and come home, even for less than 24 hours, so I could see the kids. But as much as we love our jobs, it doesn't define us. This last job was a test – even at the weekends I learned lines on the train. My poor husband had to do without a wife for a bit.
Have your children seen you on TV?
My daughter has. Once she was watching me on the computer, and got upset because she saw me smoking. I had to explain I was in character. Another time she saw me kissing in The Paradise, but she understood it wasn't me.
What does your husband do better?
Physically he's much better than me with Lynott. Sometimes I feel weak because he's so energetic. I'm more of the sensible teacher. So we both bring something different to our family. He's also good at getting them back to sleep for five minutes in the morning! When you do it together, when one of you gets tired the other can step in and pick up the slack.
What would you invent for new mums?
Bottles of patience so you'd never run out. I wouldn't want to wish any moments away, even the stressful ones, so it would give you the stamina to deal with them.
Any advice for other mums?
The window before they start school is so precious. Stop and smell the roses.
Do you think you'll have any more kids?
You know what? I'm happy with two. If I didn't work maybe I would have one more, but I want to keep working and it's just about do-able with two; with three I think it would be hard for our family. And you're still welcome at people's houses with two. Three is a tribe!
Elaine was chatting to Ali Horsfall. Catch her in the new cop show No Offence on Channel 4.