Actress Tamzin Outhwaite chats about being mum to Florence and baby Marnie, including why exotic holidays are out and what she feels she could do better
Did you always plan to be a mum?
Oh yes, definitely. I was the oldest, so I always mothered my two brothers and cousins a lot when we were growing up.
Describe birth in one word
Who’s your biggest parenting influence?
My own mum – she was hands-on, yet undramatic and calm. I think you naturally become the same kind of parent as your own mum was, but you try to take all the best bits. I try to be as chilled out as her, but there are other layers I want to add as a parent as well.
Any advice for new mums?
One thing my doctor advised me, when I had Florence, was not to look at the internet and not to listen to everybody else, because they will throw in their twopence worth. Instead, just find out along the way, discover things for yourself and get to know your child.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
Florence comes in to me in the morning and wakes me up, saying: ‘Morning Mummy, I love you’, and that pretty much tips me over the edge every day!
Perfect family day?
Friends coming over, cooking a big roast, hanging out with the kids, and then maybe going for a nice walk. There would be no deadlines and we’d just keep it spontaneous.
Why did you choose their names?
I always loved the name Florence. I loved The Magic Roundabout (if I’d had a boy he probably would have been called Zebedee!) and I love Florence, the place. And I liked all the abbreviations – Flo and Florrie, and so on. Marnie was the one name that Tom and I agreed on, we both liked it a lot.
Any embarrassing moments?
We’ve had plenty of tantrums in the supermarket. Not so much now, but when Florence was about three. That’s always embarrassing, but actually I think your embarrassment can prevent you from dealing with the problem in the way you would otherwise, so you have to try to ignore it if people are looking at you. It makes me smile now when I see other people’s kids doing it, I think, ‘yeah, I’ve been there!’
Are they daddy's girls?
Yes definitely. Florence always has been and Marnie is just six months old but you can already see she loves male company.
What could you do better?
Lots of things, and everything! But you always think that about your whole life, 'I could better daughter, I could be a better mum, I could be a better friend'. You want to be better at everything, but as life is, some things are going to suffer. I really love my job and my work, and sometimes that makes me feel like I'm not such a great mum, but I don't have tons of guilt about it. My mum brought us up without doing work of any kinds, and she says to me: "You shouldn't feel guilty about it, because you're doing something you love." Between working, we get very concentrated times with the girls and that actually works really well.
What does Tom do better than you?
He's more patient than I am. And he spoils them better!
Are you doing things differently with Marnie than you did with Florence?
Well, Marnie is calmer than Florence was. At the moment anyway, I feel like I'm labelling them. So it's easier this time around in that way, although I have gone back to work earlier.
What's Florence's favourite book?
She went through a phase of The Princess and the Pea. It's great now she's started reading at school, she's doing really well with it and she loves her books. She'll be reading to Marnie soon.
Does she love her little sister then?
It's just complete, continual, overflowing affection. Admittedly, it does sometimes gets a bit rough, but I think comes from a very good place!
Is Marnie weaning? What's her favourite food?
Yes she is weaning, and she likes anything really, she's having all sorts of pureés – sweet potato, peas, apples. She's having three meals a day and took to it really quickly, she was wolfing stuff down in no time.
Well, Florence would want it to be someone who was a cross between Dora the Explorer and Minnie Mouse, or alternatively any of the Barbie princesses.
What one thing do you want to pass on to your children?
Affection and love. You can never give a child too much love, or be overly affectionate, but I think this is the first generation that has been very vocal about it. I'm not sure but perhaps previous generations monitored their affection a bit. Tom and I have always told the girls how much we love them on a daily basis, and hopefully that will pass on, and they'll always be able to show their true affection towards others.
What do mums have to accept?
That they are always on duty! You never, ever really have time off.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Sometimes if I can I'll just sit down and put on a Modern Family DVD. I know that'll always make me laugh. Also, children's programmes – I'll sit down with Flo and watch the Disney Channel, and I'll be thinking, 'I know I shouldn't be watching this, but I'm getting quite into it'!
What baby product couldn't you live without?
At the moment, it's a Hippychick hip seat because I've got a bit of a bad back. You fasten it around your waist and use it to support your baby while you're carrying them. It really helps to stop you overcompensating and doing any more damage – when they get to six months and you're holding them all the time, that's easy to do!
And any complete wastes of time?
Hmm, we bought a papoose which we haven't used that much really. I'm not sure why, but if you're going out shopping or whatever, well, you can hang stuff on a buggy!
If you could invent something for new mums what would it be?
It would be a sort of sling you could use at home, so you could be carrying your baby and still have contact with them, but something about it, some sort of counter balancing thing, would actually make your baby completely weightless! Mums do so much holding, they always end up injuring themselves. That would be great.
Would you like more children?
I think I'm leaving it there...!
Tamzin is urging parents to enter the Munch Time story writing competition before the closing date of 31st May. For more information visit www.munchtime.co.uk.
To watch a webcast of Tamzin reading a bedtime story have a look at youtube.com
Tamzin was chatting to Pip Jones.