Best known for her hugely successful BBC3 documentaries, 31-year-old Cherry Healey has become a much-loved TV presenter all around the UK with a huge following of more than 77,000 people on twitter. She’s insightful, witty, challenging and compassionate and, more importantly, she’s a hard-working mum with a busy career and a three-year-old daughter, Coco. So, how does she cope? Here we speak to Cherry about motherhood, her love of fashion, her mummy-diva moments and much more.
Hi Cherry! How do you find handling a successful and busy career with motherhood – where’s the balance?
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy and it’s something I’m constantly learning. I think the holy grail of work-home balance is probably three and a half days work, that’s when I feel like I’m able to do some good work and also be a good mum, and also have time to myself, that’s a really lovely balance.
Now, obviously life isn’t like that and if it tips over more to work then I find that my daughter can suddenly be cross with me for going away, which I really struggle with. Or, I don’t get time to see my friends, or I just look a shambles because I haven’t had time to do the lady preening, which is deeply time-consuming and annoying but needs to be done. So it is difficult and I do have help.
We’ve got an au pair and without her I’d probably crumble in a heap, she’s a completely wonderful person. When she first joined us, I couldn’t really talk about her without crying for the first six months, she’s wonderful, and my husband’s fab as well.
They say it takes a village to bring up a child and I really see why that is there because it’s true and you do need help, definitely. But then I really love working and I hope that one day my daughter will have a job she enjoys so finding that balance is important and also I’ve learned to say no to things.
Like, there was a job offered to me about two years ago where I’d be travelling around the world and I had to say no because it was just too long to be away. I would have been away for three months straight and there was just no way I could do that.
Since you had Coco, what has been the most difficult parenting skill for you to learn?
Stopping and being patient. I multi-task loads, I’ll be doing three things at once and I love that. I really enjoy being busy and energetic and getting loads done in a day. But, actually, she doesn’t like that, she doesn’t like it when I’m on my phone with her, she’ll get my phone and hide it.
So it’s stopping and playing with her which can be a bit of a challenge if you like to be really occupied. So, we’ll play games together, we’ll do board games and actually the iPieces game is brilliant because it’s ergonomic and I don’t have to find a board and it’s just a little handful of pieces.
So we’ll actually sit and play that and only that, which I have found really challenging, but it’s really peaceful as well, just doing one thing at a time.
How would you describe your parenting style – does Coco have a routine?
I’ve always liked clothes I can move in or I can run about in. I’ve got to be able to lunge... As long as I can lunge in an outfit I’m happy.
It’s embarrassingly schizophrenic I think. She (Coco) does have a routine and I do try and stick to that but it’s also flexible. It is perhaps too flexible sometimes and sometimes if we’re just having fun, her bedtime can be a little bit later than it should be. But, yes there is absolutely an established routine but we play with the boundaries of that routine.
You did Cherry’s Dilemma on parenting last year – what’s your biggest parenting dilemma?
Food, definitely. I want to cook for her (Coco) and for her to enjoy food but she basically only eats five things. She likes dry banana, she likes nuts, she likes toast and peanut butter, pasta with cheese and she likes fish fingers. And she likes smoothies too which is great. She basically loves all snacks like breadsticks, crisps and chocolates, because kids just love that. But obviously because her variety is so limited, I limit those snacks quite a lot. So there’s kind of a rough nutritional balance.
In the docu-series you did a few years ago – referring specifically to Cherry has a Baby – you said you felt too young to be a mum – do you still stick by that or has your view, on what the right age is to be a parent, changed?
What I feel now is that it’s not so much about the right age to have a child but I think there are some factors that when they’re in place make things a lot easier. So, having a little bit of financial security really makes a huge difference. It makes things like being able to get a babysitter every so often much easier which, I think, makes a big difference to sanity (laughs). Just being able to get some help in every so often so that mums can go off and have a bit of personal calm time is great.
And I think that being with somebody who you really enjoy parenting with, makes a big, big difference. Whether that is a close family member, a husband, a boyfriends or a girlfriend, whoever it may be, having somebody very involved in the parenting side with you does help.
You also said “Mothercare is somewhere other people go – I go to Topshop” – and you do come across as a style-conscious mum – what are your favourite brands and how has your style changed since you’ve become a mum?
I think my style probably hasn’t changed massively because I had quite a functional style before. I’ve always liked clothes I can move in or I can run about in. I’ve got to be able to lunge (laughs). As long as I can lunge in an outfit I’m happy. So, the function of my clothes hasn’t really changed.
[On shopping] For your simple stuff I love Cos, I absolutely love Cos and I still really like Topshop which is embarrassing because I’m probably getting a bit old. And I love Uniqlo for just really practical pieces.
I suppose I just mix and match – I’m not really loyal to one particular shop. I just go wherever.
Are you passing the style-genes on to Coco – what are your favourite kid’s brands to dress her in?
No. Not in any way – she couldn’t care less about clothes at the moment. The only thing she cares about is making sure that she has chosen what she’s wearing and if I choose something which I know she likes, she’ll make sure that she doesn’t wear that. As long as she’s in control then
Do you think she’ll be a fashion rebel then?
Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. If mummy likes it, she won’t wear it, that’s the general rule.
Thinking back to when you were pregnant – what was the most unusual thing that you got cravings for?
French bread, massive chunks of butter and nutella. I mean is there anything less nutritionally good for you? I just wanted lard.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given – and who from?
Recently a friend of mine gave me a really good tip. She said it’s not your job to stop a tantrum; it’s just your job to be there for them. She said, imagine if a friend came to you and said “I’m absolutely heartbroken, my boyfriend’s left me, I’m gutted.” You wouldn’t say to them “Now stop it! Come on, stop crying!” You’d say to them, “I know how that feels, I’ve had that feeling too,” you let them know you empathise and then you ask them questions about it and you let them talk to you.
But if a child comes up to you and says “I don’t want to wear these shoes mummy, I don’t!” – You immediately think, “Now that’s a ridiculous thing, come on put your shoes on.” You immediately go into, well I go into, “come on now stop being silly!” and my friend told me to apply the same rules as you would with a good friend. And it’s absolutely changed my relationship with my daughter in that we haven’t struggled with getting the shoes on (laughs). And I now just say to her, “I know how that feels, it’s really annoying when something’s uncomfortable and you have to put it on” and I just talk to her about it. I know it sounds really simple but it’s just brilliant and she snaps out of it much faster.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve given to somebody else?
Oh God, probably none (laughs). I suppose it comes from something I really struggle with – if you’re really in the thick of it and you feel a bit like all your other friends are out having fun, because I was the first out of my friends to have a child, so sometimes I think I’m missing out on stuff when my friends are all out on the town, but actually I think, “this is a phase, a moment, it’s not going to last forever so really enjoy it while it lasts.” When it’s gone, when Coco’s grown up I know that I’m going to miss her being little so much, so I don’t want to wish it away. There’s going to come a time when I can potter around again all willy-nilly and meet up with my friends whenever I want. So, I don’t want to miss this bit by wishing it away.
Which celebrity mums do you admire?
Sarah Beeny. I think probably mums that juggle a lot. Sarah Beeny and Holly Willoughby are just doing a really great job and they’re definitely people I look up to. I mean how does Sarah Beeny do it? What is the woman on? I really really admire her.
What are your thoughts on the programme Supernanny – do you think you could ever tell parents how to handle rowdy or naughty children?
I think it’s fantastic. I think a lot of people have picked up some useful tips about parenting. What I’ve learned, being a parent, which is really interesting, is that you aren’t necessarily just born with this fabulous parenting instinct and actually some of my instincts have been wrong. And that’s absolutely fine, doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or you are a bad mum – it means that you get things wrong and that’s life. Actually, parenting is a skill and you can get better at parenting. Speaking to other people, I do think it’s [Supernanny] fab but I don’t agree with all of Supernanny’s methods.
You’ve just started writing for the Huffington Post and you’ve done editorial work for Grazia, You Me Baby magazine and other print media, how does it feel to go from being in front of the screen to putting pen to paper and writing for huge audiences – do you prefer broadcast or print?
I love it, I absolutely love the writing. I enjoy both equally if I’m honest. I absolutely love being able to write a piece slowly and being able to think about it and also having, I suppose, complete control over it. It’s just me making those types of editorial decisions, which is great.
But then broadcast is fantastic. It’s really exciting to go and meet fascinating people, sometimes quite unusual people and I love working with a team as well. I love working with a director and the edit process is really interesting too. So, both require different skills but it’s nice to be able to do the two together.
And you’re married to an ex-football player, have you ever considered yourself to be a wag – what’s the most diva-like tantrum you’ve ever had?
I’m actually not married to an ex-football player. But I never mind that at all because it’s very funny – that information’s wrong on Wikipedia but I don’t mind that all. And I have to say I haven’t changed that which is my fault so… He’s just a normal bloke but I’m a massive diva anyways (laughs).
Tell us about any mummy-diva moments you’ve had…
My daughter did come into my bed quite recently and pulled my hair really hard and I jumped out of the bed so dramatically and I turned around and I shouted at her ‘That’s just not reasonable!’ (laughs). I mean it was like 5.30 in the morning and I thought ‘come on!’ so that’s probably quite a big tantrum!
Give us your one top mummy tip for our readers…
Don’t suffer in isolation. Doesn’t matter how crazy you think what you’re suffering is, there’s always going to be someone out there who’s served the same thing and has loads of amazing tips. And if you’re getting it wrong, it doesn’t matter, lots of people get stuff wrong all the time. You can get better and parenting is a skill just like anything else.
Finally, what’s coming up next for you?
I am filming a BBC1 programme about food and science and health which is great. And I’m working with Jumbo on the iPieces range which is really exciting because it’s a joy for a parent. I fricking love it!
And we’re pitching for another series for BBC3. There are loads of documentary ideas which take ages to find their space in the schedule or whether they’re good ideas or not. There is still lots and lots I’d like to do!