Cherry Healy: My precious moments
Tv presenter Cherry Healy talks about life with her daughter Coco, 3, and how learning to become a good parent has been the best surprise
Did you always plan on being a mum?
No. Well, yes. I always wanted children, but I thought I would have them much later, maybe 35 [she had Coco at 28]. My daughter was a surprise, and finding out was terrifying, like falling down a very, very long hole! I’m really glad now that I had her when I did, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
You shared your birth experience on TV. Why did you choose to do that?
My natural state is that I’m happy to share pretty much anything! Also, I really wanted to make a documentary about pregnancy, partly because I was completely ignorant about the whole thing. The only difficulty was whether my husband was happy to share as well, so we talked a lot about it and put boundaries down.
Who’s your biggest parenting influence?
My mum, but also my friend Hannah, a fabulous mum of two. She really investigates parenting, she’s interested in methods and we talk about the different ways of doing things. It’s been brilliant because, while the mothering instinct can be amazing, it’s not always right. I remember her telling me that when Coco has a tantrum, I’m not there to stop it, I’m there to help her deal with it. And thinking of it like that, well, it’s been life-changing.
What’s the best thing about being a mum?
Slowing down. I like to multitask, I like to be busy all the time, but with a child, you can’t really. I’ve had to force myself to stop and just focus on Coco because she wants and needs my full attention. We just play a game, or we do some cooking, one thing at a time. It’s been a revelation, and it calms me.
Perfect family day?
A lie-in and then my daughter would come and get into bed, and then we’d sleep some more (but that’s really unlikely!) and then probably just playing together at home and watching an afternoon movie. Maybe even in bed. With a bowl of crisps.
How will you be spending Christmas?
We’ll probably be at my mum’s. I’ve got three brothers, and Coco has three cousins, all boys, who she’s obsessed with. The general traditions are to eat loads, play with all the toys and presents and play board games. We’re all very competitive, even Coco.
How did you choose Coco’s name?
The official line, of course, is that she was named after Coco Chanel. But the reality is my first cat was called Coco. He was a black, male cat and very grumpy – probably because my brother and I used to dress him up, put him in a cot and cover him with a blanket.
Any advice for new mums?
There is no such thing as perfect parenting. That sounds obvious, but I think I didn’t realise parenting was something you could learn. There is so much good information and advice out there, so if there’s something you’re struggling with, seek help – use books or websites – and don’t suffer in isolation.
What have you had to give up?
Going out with my friends regularly. I used to see them all the time and knew everything that was going on in their lives, but now I’m always either working or I’m with Coco. I miss that, it feels hard sometimes.
Biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Weaning. I weaned her really badly! I didn’t read up on it, I thought I could just follow my instincts, but then I gave her a rice cake and she nearly choked when I was in the flat with her by myself. Then I was terrified and I kept her on purées for way too long. Now she’s a massively fussy eater.
Most embarrassing moment with her?
It was quite recently actually. She’s just started nursery and on her second session there we turned up and she had a massive golf ball-sized lump on her forehead – she’d zoomed down a hill on her scooter and face-planted the pavement. What was worse was she also had stains on her top, so she looked beaten up and shabby, and I thought, ‘Oh no, they are going to think I’m neglecting her!’
What makes her laugh?
We have this game where I have to pretend to be a dog. She finds it hysterically funny. She puts me to bed and gives me water and I have to give her rides. It’s exhausting!
What fictional character would she be?
Probably George from Peppa Pig. She’s quite contrary, quite stubborn and knows her own mind. She’s also very funny and she could find a puddle in the Sahara Desert!
Is she a daddy’s girl?
It depends who she has spent her day with, she’s very fickle. If I have spent all day with her, then she’s all about mummy, if she’s spent the day with daddy, she’s all about him.
What does your husband do better than you?
Make gravy. But with Coco, he has more energy for physical games, tickling, hide and seek and things. I prefer the games that involve some lying down. Doctors and nurses is the best game ever.
What’s Coco’s favourite book?
She’s been given the whole Peppa Pig set in a backpack and every night it’s quite stressful trying to choose which one to read. She also loves anything with pirates.
Who would be your fantasy babysitter?
Brad Pitt. Oh, I’m not going to be there? Oh…
What would you like to pass on to her?
My bolognese recipe. In terms of life lessons, to be as kind as you can possibly be to the person who’s having the least fun at the party. That’s what made me love my husband. It’s just the nicest quality in a human being, I think, that sort of momentary self-sacrifice.
What has she taught you?
Patience, and just to play for the sake of playing. You learn all your life that whatever you do there must be something achieved at the end of it. But it’s good just to have time out for the sake of fun.
Has she ever shocked you?
She shocks me with new words and I don’t know where she’s picked them up from. And once when I was in bed and she got hold of my hair and she yanked it so hard. I jumped up and yelled: ‘That’s just not REASONABLE!’ Ridiculous, she was two and a half!
What do mums have to accept?
That it’s much, much harder to find any personal time. But that is temporary.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Nutella and breadsticks, and occasionally using childcare so I can sit in a café and stare out of the window. I love people-watching.
Would you like more children?
Definitely, but a bit of a gap works for me because of my job. Also, I am pleased to have had a really good stint, just me and Coco.
What would you do differently next time?
Weaning, for sure. And also, I won’t spend nine months feeling terrified that my life is going to be over. I see now that life is very different, but I adore it.
If you could invent something for new mums, what would it be?
A bio-mechanical strap-on, stay with me, that would have extra arms so you could carry your baby with a bionic arm which would stop you getting muscles in weird places. You’d also be able to carry your shopping, use your phone and reach for your wallet. And you could make your own supper, and get your fussy eater’s supper ready and be pouring yourself a glass of wine, all at once. And you could scratch with one of them.
Cherry was chatting to Pip Jones. She is the face of iPieces, a range of interactive games for the iPad, visit jumbo.eu