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“-WE JUST WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT THEY CAN BE ANYTHING THEY WANT TO BE, BUT THEY HAVE TO WORK HARD FOR IT.”
Parents of three, (soon to be four) Actor James, and Blogger Victoria Bye, have had a whirlwind few years, as their children came along at the same time as their careers started to soar. Having relocated from London to Cheshire just before they had their first child – Edward, James then got the part as Martin Fowler in one Britain’s best loved soaps – Eastenders. Consequently they made the decision to move back down south, so that James wouldn’t be separated from his family for the majority of the week. The couple have since welcomed another two boys to their brood over the years, and James took part in last year’s Strictly Come Dancing, and they are looking forward to welcoming their forth boy into their hectic lives this summer. We had the pleasure of chatting to the lovely couple, about how their lives have changed over the last few years, how they juggle everything and their ambitions for the future.
What did your careers and life look like before you had children?
Victoria – “Well career wise James was a struggling Actor, we lived in London, but we used to spend a lot time heading to Edinburgh doing the festivals, as he did a lot of theatre. And in terms of our lifestyle it was soo different from what life is like now! [They laugh] We would spend our weekends having picnics in the park, leisurely drinking a bottle of wine. We used to spend a lot of time actually in London, enjoying the city and spending time in pubs and restaurants, but obviously that all changes when children come along!”
When did it all change both in terms of your career and becoming a family?
Victoria -”So Edward was only 6 months old when James got the part in Eastenders, we had actually moved up north to Cheshire at the time and we were very happy there. James had still been auditioning, and had a few small parts alongside his regular job, but obviously Eastender was a complete game changer!”
James – “Yes, I still remember my agent calling me, he did a bit of a Simon Cowell, ‘It’s not good news, it’s bloody great news!’” [He laughs]
Victoria – “It was amazing, but we knew James couldn’t commute to work and obviously with Edward being so young we didn’t want to be apart, so we moved back down south, not to the centre of London this time though, we decided on Buckinghamshire as we thought that would be better for us now we were a family.”
What have you found to be the biggest challenge about juggling family life, alongside your career so far?
James – “I think for any soap stars, who are in people’s living rooms most nights of the week you have those moments when you’re out and about and people can either say hi because they think they know you; or they watch the show, and instantly recognise you, and they will come over, and I think that can be a bit overwhelming for the kids at times. It’s part of my job and I’m used to it, and it’s fine, but for the kids it can be hard when people they don’t know are asking for selfies or for you to sign something. One thing that helps that though is that they haven’t known any difference as they have only ever known me on the show.”
Victoria – “We just try and make sure everything is normal at home though, we don’t want them to be affected by anything, we just want them to enjoy all the ‘normal’ everyday things in life such as going to the park and shops. Them being grounded is really important to us.”
James – “One of the biggest struggles for any working parent is time away from your kids. Sometimes at Eastenders we do really long days and so I always make sure to hop on FaceTime in between scenes. With Strictly, I knew it was going to be tough schedule wise, but I don’t think I realised how hard it was going to be! I missed the kids so much! Family means everything to me and I’m always excited to get home.”
Victoria – “You always try to get back for story time don’t you? Because James does much better voices than I do when reading them a story!” [she laughs]
Did you manage to find any balance at all then whilst James was on Strictly as well as filming Eastenders?
Victoria – “It was tough at times, there were some really long days so there was lot’s of solo parenting by me which wasn’t easy.. We relied quite heavily on family to help, especially as I was going to the show at weekends to support James too. Our weekends became quite crazy for a while.
We tried to keep certain things as normal as possible and one of the great things to come out of it was showing the boys that dancing is for boys too! They loved watching their Daddy!”
James – “It was a great experience but we’re glad to be back to normal now.”
Victoria – “Yeah, we had a family holiday in January that was very much needed and it was lovely just to spend lots of quality time together after such a crazy year!”
What are your dreams for both your careers and family life, going forward?
James – “I think for me moving forward it’s all about consistency and longevity in the workplace. We want the kids to understand a good work ethic that you do have to work hard, no one is going to give it to you on a plate. And if you do work hard you reap the rewards. But above all else, if youve a supportive family around you. Youve got everything you’ll ever need..”
Victoria -”Yes, we just want them to know that they can be anything they want to be but they have to work for it. That’s something they can see from James’ career path and hopefully his career will continue to flourish. Who knows it is an unpredictable industry to be in but we’re hoping it will be bright and as a family we have a new baby coming along this summer and I just want us to continue being there for each other and continuing to support each other, which as james said, is what it’s all about really. They are your ‘why’, the reason you go to work. We’re just trying to build a lovely life together. So we try to make time for special family times, whether that’s a walk, or a movie day or just making time to all sit down together for dinner, Just spending time together away from work, homework, anything like that is really important to us.
And personally for me career wise we’ve got our blog, Life with the Byes, which has been growing and I love doing that as I get to write which has always been a passion of mine. And I’m hoping going forward I can continue to write and see where that takes us!”
James – “It’s exciting times for you, you’re on your way up! I hope I can keep up with you!”
Victoria – “ You’re not doing too badly twinkle toes” (they both laugh)
What tips would you give to other parents who are juggling busy career schedules alongside bringing up their family?
James – “I think what really helps us during really busy times is we are very fortunate that we have a really amazing group of friends, and we all help each other out. I think you have to find the courage to reach out and ask for help, and once you start doing that, you can all work together. So, I definitely think that’s a really important tip – don’t be afraid to ask for help – especially reach out to those closest to you.
Victoria – “Yes, totally. And for me in terms of the family side of things, when you do get those moments together, to remember to put your work down, and be present. At the end of the day, work is just a job, it’s replaceable, family isn’t.”
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