With four children and a famous husband, Jools Oliver has a lot on her plate. So does she get any me time?
Did you always want to be a mum?
Yes, probably from when I was about 15 or 16. I knew I didn’t want a career but wanted to do what my mum did, bring up children. I modelled for a while, but it wasn’t really me; I was never comfortable. I’m comfortable being a mum.
Can you describe birth in one word?
Exhilarating! Painful as hell, there is no pain like it. But meeting your baby for the first time is just like first love. Well worth it.
Biggest parenting influence?
My mum and my sisters. It went from watching mum to watching my older sister do it and thinking she did such an amazing job.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
It’s the simple things – the hugs, the cuddles, the way they make you laugh.
How did you choose your children’s names?
They all have more than one name (Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Rainbow, Buddy Bear) because I couldn’t decide. I’m not sure where Petal Rainbow came from – apparently (I had no idea) it’s a My Little Pony! I wanted to call her Rainbow but Jamie told me to calm down. With Buddy it was quite fun choosing a boy’s name, as I hadn’t done it before. And I hate people’s opinions on names; whatever you call your baby is your decision.
What advice would you give to new mums?
Keep calm and carry on! I never listened to any advice anyone ever gave me so I say, do it your own way.
Best present any one of the children has ever been given?
Someone sent Petal a Noo Noo. I was despairing with her because she wasn’t great at sleeping but she somehow connected the Noo Noo with her thumbs and it helped her to sleep. It’s like a big comforter made of organic cotton with rags on it. She still loves it.
Did they all have the same first word?
No. Poppy’s was ‘tractor’, Daisy’s was ‘flower’, Petal and Buddy both said ‘Hello’ first.
What does Jamie do better than you with the kids?
Oh the classic stuff, dangerous things I would never do, and anything active – I’m a bit more relaxed. He’s straight out in the garden in the rain, laughing with the kids. I’m more about comforting, reading and cuddles.
Perfect family day out?
Audley End House in Essex. It’s a big stately home that has a miniature railway winding through the woods and you can spot teddy bears having a tea party. It’s one of those places that has something for everyone; I can sit and relax while they run about, there’s a veg patch which Jamie likes to visit, swings and slides, cappuccinos…
Do your children have a favourite snack?
I have to be so strict because the little ones always want what the older ones have. If I’m being good I’ll give them nuts or mango, if not I might take them to the local café for flapjacks.
What has having children taught you?
I’m a bit more tolerant and I’ve learned to be patient. My family say I’m stronger – I can stand up for my kids way better than standing up for myself. I’m not massively assertive, unless it is something about the children.
Biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Maybe I’m a bit strict and regimented, but when you have four children it’s essential to have routines. I’d like to be a bit more relaxed – perhaps not as relaxed as Jamie, but maybe somewhere in the middle, that would be good.
What have you had to give up since becoming a mum?
A bit of everything really. I don’t have nights out too often and I haven’t had a lie-in for about ten years. Sometimes we sit there and say to each other, do you remember when we used to sit and read the papers for an hour?
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Sitting in a café with a nice cake and a magazine, watching the world go by. I can do it, but I always feel guilty. Jamie always says, ‘Why don’t you have some time to yourself?’, but even when I go to the hairdressers I’m rushing back for the children. It feels all wrong. My only downtime is walking back from school, or when I run.
Your most embarrassing mummy moment?
It’s got to be something to do with wee, poo or tantrums. If one of the children is having a tantrum and people are watching or there is a photographer lingering, it’s very frustrating. Petal had one in the supermarket the other day. I was thinking, ‘Should I put her on the naughty step in the supermarket, or shall I just give her a biscuit in order to get out of there as soon as I can?’!
Baby product you couldn’t live without?
Maclaren prams have been brilliant for all of them. I’ve also just been given a Bugaboo Donkey, which is a double pram that can be converted into a single. That’s been great because if Buds is having a nap, I can go out with Petal but convert the pram just for her.
Any wastes of time?
I bought sunshades for the car and never used them; organisers for the pram, again never used. And weights for the pram – I ditched those pretty quickly because you couldn’t collapse the pram!
If you could invent something for new mums, what would it be?
I wish I’d invented blackout blinds – the ones you take away with you, so your baby can nap in darkness when you are out.
Would you like more children?
I really would, but I just don’t know. I’m so busy with four!
Is there anything you’d do differently?
I’d like to think I could relax the routine and be a bit more hippie about it all, but I probably wouldn’t be.
Do you have tips for travelling with kids?
I take everything when I travel, so I’m really not great to ask. We went to LA when Buddy was just three months and I took so much with me. I literally take for every eventuality – two Grobags and 20 nappies in case they get upset stomachs. I’m well organised but totally over the top.
Best places to go on holiday?
I’d love to take them on a nice hot beach holiday, like the Maldives, but they only really know the UK for holidays and they love it. Going somewhere hot when they are little seems like such an effort, with sunshades and tents to protect them from the sun, and worrying about jet lag. Give me Cornwall and fish and chips by the beach any day!
Little Bird by Jools is available now, exclusively at Mothercare.
Read Jools' Blog about life in the Oliver Household.
Jools was chatting to Nifa McLaughlin.