Jools Oliver 'I could just keep doing it and doing it and doing it'
The 42-year-old on being a mother of five and expanding her little bird collection for Mothercare.
Have you always wanted to be a mum?
Yes, I think I have. From the age of eight, I had all the children’s names picked out – they’re exactly what I wanted them to be! I think, among all the other bizarre things you want to be when you’re only eight years old, being a mum was one of my top ones.
How was your fifth pregnancy?
They’ve all been quite similar, but with River it was really nice. Business as usual, feeling sick throughout – I always feel sick for around five months but as I’m used to it I don’t really mind. I thoroughly enjoyed the pregnancy because I thought River could be my last. I absolutely love being pregnant.
So, no more on the cards?
Oh, the joy of being pregnant! I could just keep doing it and doing it and doing it! Jamie says, ‘When will you want to stop?’ and I’m frightened that I don’t want to. But I must stop. I know I have to. But it’s such a nice job to have for nine months.
Did you have a birth plan?
No, I didn’t bother. Unfortunately I had to be induced – I think because of my age and having high blood pressure. I’ve had three induced births, all really painful. It went just as planned, though. We went into hospital in the morning and River came at 9pm. It really hurt, but it was all quite smooth. With my last two pregnancies I’ve really enjoyed the birth, despite the pain. I was lucky to have a great obstetrician and midwives. I would have loved a water birth, but I don’t think it would have been possible because of my blood pressure.
Can you describe birth in one word?
What’s the best thing about being a mum of five?
It has to be discovering their different characters. You’ll find yourself either crying like a baby with sheer frustration or laughing like a hyena. My kids, as I’m sure most people’s kids do, make me laugh so much. There are no people I would rather spend time with. Especially the older ones, as the little ones can get a bit tiring! The older ones are like best friends to me. I think that’s really special.
How do they make you laugh?
They all do great impressions – you have to watch out if you come to the house, because they’ll be doing very entertaining impressions of you once you’ve gone. We’ve got a great relationship with the kids, although according to them I can sometimes be a bit old-fashioned. We all love to dance – I think I’m a good dancer, but I’m repeatedly told I’m not! Buddy actually is really good. That might be a mother’s love talking but he can dance really fast. The music isn’t always cool in our house, but they’ll dance to anything.
With five kids, how do you find time to get anything done?
I’m lucky because I can work from home, and there’s always time to do something, such as when they’ve all gone to bed. It’s pretty exhausting, but it’s doable.
What’s the most difficult thing?
The main thing is working out how to divide my time. That’s what I struggle with, as my older girls now need me in a different way. It used to be that everyone was in bed by 6pm, but now I’m physically exhausted by the time I’ve put all the younger ones to bed, then I have the older ones to deal with who stay up until 9 or 10pm, when I feel I just want to have a bit of time to sit and stare at a wall. But, of course, you can’t, because you need to listen to something that happened to them at school, and they need you. And it’s important that you’re there for them.
What’s surprised you most about being a mum of five?
Having to juggle all the various ages and stages at once. It’s slightly weird!
How do you keep track of everyone when out and about?
It’s good having the older children to help, and hold the younger ones’ hands. River’s on my front for now so that’s easy, he’s not going anywhere – yet! But I get paranoid, I’m sure every mum does at some point, and try to avoid big crowds because not keeping track of them is my biggest fear.
Do you have a perfect family day out?
I’m obsessed with long walks. I need to get a dog, so I can make sense of why I go walking so much. We all love getting out and about in the woods near our home in Essex – and if it’s ever snowing, that’s even better. I like going on walks with the kids because that’s when everyone talks. With the older girls, these days you have to fight the protests against putting technology away, but when we’re walking they’ll talk to me about things they obviously need to.
Do you have any Easter traditions?
We have a treasure hunt, and I hide activities, sticker books and so on as well as chocolate – I don’t like them to have too much chocolate. Then we have Easter lunch with either Jamie’s family or at my mum’s. There are lots of family birthdays around then, too, so Easter is massive for us – it’s just like Christmas.
Who does the cooking in your house?
I cook all the children’s meals, apart from at weekends. When Jamie’s at home I never cook, unless it’s his birthday – I’ll tell him I’m making a casserole, and he has to deal with it! I’m not brilliant at it and I don’t really enjoy it. I find it quite stressful – the opposite of how he finds it.