Kate Thornton: My precious moments
TV and radio presenter Kate Thornton explains how lucky she is that six-year-old son Ben is so easy-going – except for that one occasion with the postman...
Did you always plan to be a mum?
Yes. I didn't know when but I never factored that I wouldn't be, which is probably wildly presumptuous. It's only as you get older that you realise it's not a given and you plan for it. I stopped smoking, I went to the gym more, I took folic acid – I prepped.
How was birth for you?
Horrific! I had false labour for 12 days so by the time I actually went into labour for real, I was just exhausted. Eight goes at an epidural failed, so despite my wishes to have every drug known to man, I ended up having a natural birth. And yes, it was excruciatingly painful. I love what it gave me and I'd do it a hundred times over, but it wasn't fun.
Who's your biggest parenting influence?
My mum and dad. They are smart, work as a team, love unconditionally, and taught me to chase my ambition, never think anything was beyond reach. But if things went wrong, there was always home to go to. And you couldn't ask for better grandparents. They've enabled me to carry on working. They went to the Arctic with me for five weeks when I was filming 71 Degrees North, they've been on tour with me for Strictly Come Dancing – I couldn't have done it without them.
How do you juggle your career and being a single mum?
My parents come up every other weekend, so I can go out or go to the gym. But day to day it's tricky. I don't want Ben in after-school club every day so I try to be at the school gates at least three days a week. I make it clear I'm only available for meetings in school hours – I'm lucky that I can do that. But Ben eats a home-cooked meal nearly every day – I don't! I cook for him then I sit there at 11pm eating cereal! That's why my radio show Paper Cuts is a dream job – I do all the research and write the scripts at home. It doesn't always work out, though, and the fall-back is relying on great friends – not just school mums but also women I met in the park or through nursery, and it's predominantly single mums. You find people in the same situation and help as much as you can. A lot of the planning happens over wine!
What's the best advice you've been given?
Not to take advice. If a pregnant friend asks, I tell them every experience is different. Do it your way, don't feel badgered into conforming. When you're a new mum, sleep deprived, on your knees, there's nothing worse than some well-intentioned do-gooder going, 'Do this! Do that! Breastfeed! Read Gina Ford! Stand on your head!' The greatest advice is, don't judge other parents, find what's right for you.
Favourite thing about being a mum?
Being a mum! That's it. It's the best. About a year ago Ben asked, 'What's it like having a baby, Mum?' and I said, 'It's like you put all the colours in my rainbow.'
Perfect family day?
I would have lost my phone so nobody could interrupt. We'd have breakfast in bed, then we'd go to the park. We have great woods near us and on a Sunday a crowd of us go for a walk to a pub where they do a brilliant Sunday lunch. That's the ultimate chill. But any day with Ben is perfect and there are never enough these days, especially now he's at school and frankly would rather hang out with his mates.
What have you had to give up?
You give up so much but you get so much back that it doesn't matter. Of course you absolutely lose the right to be spontaneous. You can't leave the house quickly. You never sleep as deeply. You are no longer the most important person in your life – but I don't want to be. Your waistline and the gravity of your breasts change, and you can't spend more than 15 minutes getting ready even for a wedding! I never look put together, because I'm not.
Most embarrassing moment with Ben?
I was in my pyjamas, with a two-year-old Ben at my feet, signing for a parcel. Ben pulled my pyjama bottoms right down and I didn't have anything underneath. The postman said, 'I didn't see anything!' He's still my postman, we just don't talk about it and I live with the shame.
And your biggest panic?
Loads – it's normal, isn't it? He was five weeks premature, weighed five pounds and he had severe reflux, so was losing weight, and it took a long time to diagnose. Wondering what was wrong was my first taste of that panic. Then recently he had a bad reaction to nit lotion. That midnight dash to A&E – trying to park, carrying a child with a raging temperature, a long night in A&E... that's when you wish there was somebody else. But he got better. You rise up the next morning like a warrior, saying, 'I did it! Nothing bad happened!'
Has he ever shocked or surprised you?
His kindness always surprises me, he can be so thoughtful towards other children. And I love his delusions about football. He said to me the other day, in all seriousness, 'Mum, have you seen my skills?' I'm not being funny but I'm more awesome than David Beckham.' And in his head, he believes that!
What's your parenting style?
I'm lucky because I don't have to be really strict as he doesn't push me – apart from a spell of the terrible twos. Don't get me wrong, at 8-8.45am I'm like a sergeant major: 'Socks! Socks! Get your socks on! Shoes! Shoes! Have you done your teeth? Are you listening to me?' That's when I turn into a squawky witch. It's like trying to get a snail out of the door. I'm sure it's the same around the world.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Just sitting watching TV sometimes feels like a guilty pleasure, or a phone call with a friend.
What would you invent for new mums?
A sleep dispenser. That's all you talk about – it becomes an obsession.
Paper Cuts, presented by Kate Thornton, will return to BBC Radio 2 in December. Kate was chatting to Lizzie Catt