VICTORIA HAYDN ON PHOTOGRAPHING MANCHESTER CITY, MOTHERHOOD AND HER NEW CHAPTER

VICTORIA HAYDN ON PHOTOGRAPHING MANCHESTER CITY, MOTHERHOOD AND HER NEW CHAPTER

© BROOD MAGAZINE. VICTORIA HAYDN AND HER SON, CHARLES

“After photographing Man City for the last ten years, I’m ready to capture the beautiful journey of motherhood

Talented mum of one, Victoria Haydn, has made waves over the last decade as Senior Photographer for Manchester City and one of only a handful of women photographers in the Premier League. After spending the last ten years capturing some of the most incredible moments in both the club and footballing history, now that Victoria has welcomed her adorable son Charles to brood, she has decided to hand over her reigns at Man City, embark on a new venture and step into the world of entrepreneurship.

Victoria’s photos have been published all over the world. From snapping photos of the team on the Great Wall of China to capturing Manchester City Women lift their first ever trophy, Victoria has lived every football-fans’ dream. Victoria even travelled and captured Manchester City in their first ever Champions League final in Portugal in 2021, while five-months pregnant. But since experiencing first-hand, the amazing the transition into motherhood, Victoria has decided to dedicate her craft to empowering women and mothers, by telling their stories through photography.

Victoria is an incredibly warm person, so it’s easy to see how she can get people to shine in front of the camera. We had the pleasure of chatting to Victoria about everything from her decision to step away from a role that she has had so much success and joy from; to how she has found returning to work and Charles starting childcare, to her aspirations for her new business.

Victoria Haydn
© BROOD MAGAZINE. VICTORIA HAYDN AND HER SON, CHARLES

How have you found returning to work and starting Charles at Nursery? 

“I was an emotional wreck when he first started nursery, because up until that point I knew exactly what he did during every second of the day. We didn’t have any babysitters or family looking after him for the first nine months, so I knew everything from every nappy change to every time he sneezed. To suddenly just drop him off at nursery for four days a week was a massive shift! I found it really hard. Although it was difficult for me, it was the best thing for him and he absolutely loves it. He waves me off every day as he joins his friends and teachers. I watch him growing and learning and I know he’s loving this chapter for himself. He’s doing so well, and I’m so proud of him”

Have you felt pressured to make the most of your time whilst he’s nursery because it’s been so hard to leave him?

“Yes, I have felt like there is a huge weight on my shoulders, and a feeling of anxiety. A part of me wanted to drop him off so that I could go out and make an income and get my business off the ground. I felt that for us to have a really good future I needed to start my business right away. So as soon as I would drop him off at nursery, I would be in the head space of ‘work, work, work’. But I would also feel guilty about not being with him. You go through so many mixed emotions. You want to spend time with your child, but you also have a responsibility as mum, a wife, and a homeowner to work too. He’s been in nursery for around three months, and I still have that worry of trying to do everything possible for the business whilst he’s there. There is so much to do when you’re running a business, you’ve got marketing, accounts, creative shoots, editing and there are so many different things going on, so it’s been quite hard to adapt to.”

How have you found stepping away from your role as senior photographer at Manchester City after that has played such a big part in your life and career?

“I absolutely love watching the matches at home in the warmth with Charles, but I’ll miss the nights at the Etihad Stadium soaking up the atmosphere and photographing all the special moments. I’ve had the chance to photograph history unfold for the last ten years, which is genuinely one of my greatest career achievements and I’m so proud of that. On the other hand, I now have the opportunity to photograph on the days and times that work for me and my family. I get to choose whether I work on the weekends and can allow myself time to set up for beautiful shoots with my wonderful clients.

During the summer my husband (who also works for Man City) was in the USA for 10 days during their preseason tour, and I would have been there ordinarily. If I’m completely honest we hadn’t really considered that side of things. So that was a bit of shock when it dawned on us – ‘What would we do with Charles for 10 days?’ So that played a big part in my decision. After photographing ManCity for the last ten years, I’m ready to capture the beautiful journey of motherhood. I’m going to miss the world of football and the fast-paced lifestyle brings, but equally I’m so passionate and excited about my new business which has made my decision easier.”

What are you most looking forward to about your new business? 

“I’m excited about my whole new adventure, but I suppose after photographing men for ten years, I’m looking forward to photographing women. I’m passionate about getting mums in front of the camera and telling their story. I feel like that’s my greater purpose. I have a platform to highlight how amazing mums are. I want to give them photographs to be proud of. They can be photographed at 30 weeks pregnant during this beautiful transition where they are about to become a mother, and then they can come back into the studio with their beautiful babies. I get to capture these precious moments for them, and I love that. Since becoming a mum myself, I know we have a habit of always being behind the camera, taking the photos – I’m on a mission to change this. I have spent 10 years capturing the everyday moments of Premier League heroes I’m now my mission is to capture the heroic moments of everyday super mums. Mums are strong, independent, fierce women and I can’t wait to photograph them every day.

Do have any tips to any other new parents, in particular those who are returning to work?

“Everyone says enjoy your sleep while you can, but it doesn’t really sink in until it happens and then you’re like ‘Oh my god I’ve not slept for nine months!” [We all laugh] “But you just seem to manage somehow. I look at parents in a completely new light now, I just think that they are superheroes! How they just crack on with things is amazing, because now I know what they are going through and how tough it can be.

I have lived and breathed sports photography for over 10 years, so I only know going at 100mph. When Charles came it completely changed everything, it forced me to slow down a bit. Balancing work and being a mum has been a challenge but I’m constantly learning and evolving. Working helps me to remember ‘Oh, I am still me!’ and I think that’s so important.”

If you want to be photographed and step into your power, then you can arrange your own photoshoot with Victoria at www.victoriahaydn.com and see her portfolio on Instagram @victoriahaydnportraits.

Victoria Haydn
VICTORIA HAYDN © WITH MANCHESTER CITY MANAGER PEP GUARDIOLA FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE ©. | INTERVIEW BY LOLO STUBBS

“I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.

Parents to four children under six years old, Kelvin and Liz Fletcher, are a humble yet extremely impressive couple, and their incredible appetite to create a full and vibrant life for themselves and their children is truly inspiring! Both Kelvin 38, and Liz are well known for their careers as actors, with Kelvin in particular becoming a household name through his 20 years on one of Britain’s best loved soaps – Emmerdale. But the careers that they are most recognised for are not what defines this enterprising couple as they recently added the role of ‘Farmers’ to their impressive CV’s. In their early years as a couple, Liz enjoyed a successful career as a fashion buyer but then decided to leave behind that career and return to drama school. They had only lived together for a few short months, before Liz was given the exciting opportunity to attend a Drama school in London, and despite the distance this would put between them (as Kelvin was at the peak of his career in Emmerdale at the time) he insisted that Liz go on to pursue her dreams; showing how supportive and encouraging they have always been of each other’s dreams. 

Pre-covid Kelvin and Liz were all set to embark on a new life in America, but when covid put the brakes on that dream they decided to set out to undertake a new adventure in the countryside when they bought a 120-acre farm. At the time they were a family of 4, before quickly becoming a family of six when their gorgeous twin boys, Maximus and Mateusz joined their brood. As if juggling four young children and running a working farm wasn’t enough, both Kelvin and Liz have continued with their acting careers, and they have just released their very own book – ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ a follow-on from their successful TV series. 

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Front Cover of Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER
Buy Fletchers on the Farm

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher on Careers, Parenthood and life on the farm.

We had the pleasure of seeing Liz and Kelvin, their gorgeous baby boys and their adorable cavapoochon Ginger at their wonderful family home and amongst lots of giggles, we delved into what drives them, their plans for the future, and how they manage their daily juggle of having of 4 kids and a farm! Even though managing all that they do is clearly not for the faint hearted, the endearing way they talk about their family life would be enough to tempt anyone who has a sense of adventure to don a pair of wellies and get stuck into life on a farm! 

“If you know you’re capable of it, then go for it!”

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Life on the Farm
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE

So firstly, was life like pre-kids? 

Kelvin – “Happy, wasn’t it?” [he turns to Liz and they both start laughing]

Liz – “Yes, relaxed!” 

Kelvin – “I was in really good shape, I ate really well, did what I wanted, when I wanted! Loads of Holidays..!” 

Liz – “Aww. What-a-life!” [continued laughing]

Kelvin – “We was looking at pictures the other night from before we had the kids and you look different pre kids, young and full faced! 

Liz – “We looked well slept – well rested!”

We can definitely relate to that! So at what point in your relationship did you decide to take the plunge and start a family together?

Liz – “We had been together for nearly ten years, and my dad said Kelvin was ‘freewheeling’” [Liz erupts into laughter!] “I had secretly called him up and said ‘Dad, what do you think about Kelvin?’ and as he’s quite traditional he replied with – ‘I think he’s freewheeling!’. So, I told Kelvin, my dad think’s you’re freewheeling – we’re not married, we’re not engaged, we’ve been together all this time. And I’d started thinking about it because we were coming up to our thirties, I wanted kids – although Kelvin didn’t think I was very maternal!” 

Kelvin – “That was the reason I was freewheeling! I used to think, Liz is great but she’s just not into kids and I want loads of kids – I wanted a big family. So, I just thought I don’t know if she’s going to be my wife because she doesn’t like kids!” [We all laugh]

Liz – “Yet, at the same time I’m thinking I want kids”

Kelvin – “We should have probably talked about it!”  

Well, yes especially after 10 years! [We all laugh again] So, how did you finally broach the subject then? 

Liz – “Well, I just said one day, ‘If you’re thinking of having kids, and you want this to go further, I just need to let you know I’m not going to have kids unless I’m married…so there you go! I’ll give you until the end of the year!” [she laughs] “So, I left him with that information, and this was the beginning of the year and then it took him until November – he left me hanging until NOVEMBER – and then he proposed!”

Kelvin – “Yes, 28th November!”  

Liz – “I had no idea it was going to happen, and he took me away for this amazing weekend in Anglesey. He’d done a full on reccy before he proposed, there was certainly a lot of effort involved. He’d designed the ring and everything!”

Kelvin – “The ring you don’t wear?” 

Liz can’t contain her laughter – “I know! I don’t even wear it! Well, I’m a farmer now I can’t wear it!”

“Yes, she literally keeps in a mug over there! It’s worth more than the kitchen and it’s sat in a mug over there!” [We are all in fits of giggles at this point] 

Liz – “And then from a year to the day later, we got married!”

Kelvin – “And then almost 9 months later, Marnie was born! And then suddenly that’s when things changed, and your life becomes so different.”

In what way did you feel the changes? 

Liz – “Well, a month before I gave birth, you left Emmerdale didn’t you?”

Kelvin – “Yes, I had been working my two-year notice, as I knew I wanted to leave. And I left really happy as I had a job for 20 years that I loved, but I was ready for a new challenge. I was 32 years old, and I wanted to figure out my next move. I did question if I even wanted to act anymore, as from being 6-7 years old it was all I had ever done and I suppose I wanted to know, ‘Could I do anything else?’ So that was a big transition anyway, as well as becoming a father for the first time. But that helped me too. As obviously becoming a parent is amazing, but also because I suppose it’s like when sportsmen retire sometimes, they can lose all sense of who they are. Who am I? What am I? And I think after 20 years of working that could have happened to me, but that void was quickly filled by having our daughter. So, I didn’t have time to start worrying as to whether I had done the right thing or not, so in that way the timing was really good.”

Liz – “I had started doing voiceovers at this point, so it worked well for me too, as I could do the odd job but most of the time I could be at home with the baby. I was also teaching dance at a little school down the road a couple of hours a week too”

Kelvin – “I took six months off from Acting but I was doing other bits in the background, figuring out what to do next so I never really stopped completely.”

Kelvin – “I guess first and foremost we’re actors, that’s what we are. But you’re somewhat at the mercy of other people’s decisions, so to fill that void and take some control back, we did it with a baby, with Marnie, and then we had a few more children and now we’ve become farmers. And that’s our attempt to create some continuity and consistency through family and our work life, and to make this our little world. And I think it’s healthy for us to have that. I’ve seen so many actors when things are not going their way and it’s all they know, it’s all they are, that it then consumes them in such a way that they can become resentful of themselves and the industry, and it’s understandable that people can find themselves in that position, but I will never allow any skill set, any job, any career to define me. To be the whole me. Because there is much more to life. And it’s easier said than done when you’ve got to put food on the table but I’m never going to allow anything like that to take my happiness.”

What’s the biggest positives of having the farm, for your family life? 

Kelvin – “I think one of the positives is the variety it gives us. For me I personally seek variety and I think that is key. I think that’s healthy, it’s not for everyone but it’s certainly right for us. And I’d like to think that’s something we’ll pass onto the kids. And Liz shares those views as well. It gives us new scope; fresh ideas and it expands your imagination. I also think it makes you more accepting of different people and different situations, and I think it makes you more rounded as a person, which is important.” 

Was the farm always a dream of yours? 

Kelvin – “No, I just woke up one morning and thought let’s get a farm!” 

Liz – “Yes, this was typical Kelvin! We were supposed to be in America! We were sorting a visa out to move to America, and we were 18 months into that process but then the pandemic happened, and all visa’s got stopped. But that had been our mission, and Kelvin had said ‘Well, we’ll just wait for covid to go and we’ll start it back up.’ Little did I know that Kelvin being Kelvin, was like ‘Right well that’s done – what’s next?’” [she laughs] “Then the next minute he’s on a train, he’s on right move sees this place and he say’s ‘Right Liz, how do you fancy going looking at a farm tomorrow?’ I was like ‘Whaaattt!’ [she continues laughing] “And because I can’t say no to anything, I just said ‘Ok, go on then!’ (It was kind of through gritted teeth because I was thinking farming?!”)

Kelvin -“But it wasn’t to farm originally, it was just to live here. I just wanted a different set up for us. Whether that was on a beach in California, or we even looked at New York, and central London, but I just wanted to change things up. Going back to that again – yes, as actors we want to act, and I love the hustle, but we’ve got a life together as parents and as individuals and there’s just so much more to life than just your career. So, I was just like lets just have a change of scenery, because I didn’t want to us to find ourselves in our fifties or sixties and think we’ve never had an adventure, so I just thought let’s bloody do it! And we looked at everything from Castles in Scotland, honestly as random as that, and I’m that kind of person where if I want to do something it will happen – it’s as simple as that! It can be scary and it’s not always that easy, but I think making decisions like that can give you a rebirth. It’s a new chapter and you’re creating memories and having new experiences. It could be the wrong decision; you could drop a bollock and think ‘Ah we shouldn’t have done that.’ But you can always go back.”

Liz – “Although it might seem we do things completely off the cuff, everything we thought about we researched, and we made sure it was possible. We didn’t just move to a farm with no thought behind it.” 

Kelvin – “Yes, I’m sucker for detail!”

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Is that something that you want the kids to take on board?

Kelvin – “Yes, for me that sense of adventure. If Marnie is 18 years old and she says ‘Dad, I want to go and live in America for three years’ it would kill me, but I absolutely would encourage that. But I would also encourage anything they want to do. She might want to stay here and work on the farm, but whatever they want to do but I just want them to have that sense that anything is possible. If you fancy it, you only live once go for it!”  

Since moving to the farm you have gone from having two children to four with the arrival of the twins, how have you found that transition?

Kelvin – “Hard work! It’s hard for me but it’s even harder for Liz!” 

Liz – “Well, every time I have a baby Kelvin gets a job working away! So, I’m not having anymore babies now then he might not get a job away again!” [They start laughing]

Kelvin – “I’ve only had three jobs! Three pregnancies, three jobs!” [He declares, laughing]

Liz – “Just being told we were having twins was an absolute shock. I was filled with worry. I just kept thinking ‘Oh my god two babies, how am I going to do it with the other two?’ because two weeks after they came along Kelvin had to go working away in London. So, I had two new-borns, it was the school holidays, Kelvin was working away – it just all came at once! But do you know what, we got through it, and I always just think – I’m here, we’re in it, I can’t sit here and moan about it, I’ve got to get through it. Obviously, there are days where it was horrendous, I felt like I didn’t know what was happening – I even fell asleep stood up once! But we got through it and now it’s not that bad, plus now Kelvins home again it can only get easier!”

Kelvin – “It is mad, but it’s a good crack, isn’t it? We’ll look back at this and think God we were crazy. 9 out of ten people will think I wouldn’t be doing that – they’re mad.”

Liz – “Yeah, I’ve got friends who say to me. I’m having a breakdown just listening to this story Liz! Because we live in the moment and if someone said, ‘Can you be in London tomorrow?’, we’d be like ‘Ok, yes no problem!’. We’d make it happen, whereas some of my mates are like ‘Nooo, I’d need a full two weeks of organising everything!’

You recently recorded ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ how did that come about?

Kelvin – “I was developing shows with the BBC, and this was just an off-topic conversation, and I told them what we had been up to, (moving to the farm) and I said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a TV show’ and then suddenly that process started. So that in turn gave us more of an appetite to live off the land, to grow our own food and get an understanding of animals and where your food comes from and the more, we delved into that, the more we just found it fascinating. Then we started to look at how we could commercialise it and look at the farming industry in detail. And it is an industry that everyone tells you not to get into, as there isn’t any money in it, but after looking at it we wanted to take on that challenge, because we thought it was something we could do.”

Liz – “Oh if you tell Kelvin he can’t do something, then instantly he’s going to find a way to do it!” 

Kelvin – “We want to build something here and we’re 18 months into that, and although we’re on a long journey, the aim is to make this an enterprise; something for our children, and for their future. We’re mainly a livestock farm so we’ve got sheep, pigs, chickens, we’ve got horses in the stables. We’re looking at going into cattle but as anyone in farming will tell you, livestock farming can only pay you so much really and that’s dictated on the ground you’ve got. We’ve got a 120-acre site so there’s instant limitations there, but you can diversify.”

Liz – “It’s given us a lot of purpose really, because now we’ll do the school run and then we come back, and we get stuck into all the jobs that need doing on the farm. And even at weekends, Marnie and Milo are coming to that age where they really understand it and they want to get involved too, especially Marnie. And Milo isn’t as dangerous now, as when we first moved here, he was only two, so we had to run round trying to stop him licking everything!” [she laughs] “It’s been amazing really; they’ve seen lambing season recently and I get a lot of joy seeing them get involved in it. Also no day is the same which is great.”

Kelvin – “It is full on, and it can be stressful but it’s good fun too. And whether it ends up just being a chapter of our lives or something long term, who knows, but while we’re in it we’re putting everything we can into it, and we’re excited to see where it goes. But I feel it’s the happiest and most settled we’ve ever been.”

What tips would you give to other parents who are looking to change course and take the leap into something new?

Kelvin – “If you think you can do it and if you know you are capable of it, then go for it! For me that’s what I do and if I come up short, then I come up short and I can live with that, but you’ve got to give things a go. I’m used to no one else believing in me. We can come up with a plan, and there might only be me and Liz that believe in it and that’s it – maybe our parents or our agent too, whoever it might be, but you’ve got to have that mentality where you have to think ‘Well if I think it can work, then that’s all the validation I need and if that’s different to other people and what they’re doing then so be it!’ However, you do have to put the work in, some people might have the dream, but they’re not prepared to put the work in, so you’ve got to have a good understanding of yourself and having a frank chat with yourself. You need to ask yourself, ‘What are my skills? What am I really prepared to do? That’s what I do, and I know my limitations so I don’t take on tasks where I don’t think I can do it”

Do you have a structured process to achieve your goals? 

Kelvin – “Yes, I always have a clear list of goals which I want to achieve. For example there are three/four things that I want to achieve by the end of this year and I’d say 50% are completely on our terms, and the other 50% need things to happen elsewhere to, so there’s a little bit of jeopardy there. For those goals I will do everything I can to get it as far as I can and that last part has got to come from somewhere else in order for it to succeed. Whereas the things that are 100% on us we will get them done. We have some longer-term goals too, so we have 3–6-month plans and then we have a 2–3-year plan too and we just work towards it.”

Liz – “Me and Kelvin work well together because if you’ve got a plan and it doesn’t go right that can really throw Kelvin, whereas I can help us to adapt. It’s great to have the goals and you need them, but there are always hiccups along the way and you have to find a way to adjust.”

Kelvin – “Yes, and sometimes those things can be out of your control, like market change in a business etc and you’ve failed. You take a knock, but I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.”  

If you want to read more about Kelvin and Liz’s incredible journey, then you can buy their new book ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ at all high street bookstores or click here to purchase  

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

Rob Stubbs

WEBSITE & DESIGN BY ROB STUBBS

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DO YOU NEED TO INCREASE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE, OR ARE YOU PERFECTLY IMPERFECT?

DO YOU NEED TO INCREASE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE, OR ARE YOU PERFECTLY IMPERFECT?

Need to increase your self esteem and confidence, or are you perfectly imperfect?

Confidence and self esteem are talked about so much, and thats usually because we are looking for an answer on how to improve ours! If you look up what these actually mean you will find there are many different explanations and variations depending on who you follow or read about. I like to take everything back to as simple an explanation as I can see with my own understanding and experience. For me these words could be substituted for many things like, self belief, self love, self image and so on, but it all ultimately leads to the same thing for me, which I want to share with you below.

As a human being we will always fall into the trap of judgement, particularly about ourselves and when we are criticising and judging ourselves we are by default getting further and further away from showing ourselves love and compassion. Despite what we tell ourselves at times, it is not about looking for the perfect finished article of a confident person, (which doesn’t exist, or does it?) But more about realising that we always have the gift of perspective and therefore constant change is possible for each and every single one of us. If you were to question your level of self esteem or confidence in any given moment I would probably ask you to reflect by asking yourself the following;

How much do you like yourself right now?

How much do you value yourself right now?

How do you see yourself right now?

What are your beliefs about yourself right now?

I am sure you get the picture, and the reason I add ‘right now’ onto each question, is because this will always change, it’s never static. This is why I would never describe a person as having, or not having low self esteem or confidence, as I accept and see human nature as one momentary experience after the other, no two moments the same. This is actually good news as this means that by default, there is always opportunity for a new experience, in other words a new way to see ourselves and a different way to treat ourselves – hopefully with more compassion! Instead of how do we become more confident or increase our self esteem, reflect on how compassionate and loving you are towards yourself.

If we all gave ourselves a daily dose of compassion as a general rule, the difference in our experience of life would instantly be uplifted, and filled with so much more contentment and peace of mind. Often people don’t see the value in this and the power it has to show ourselves compassion, and yet when it comes to others we often instantly see the value in it? In fact we will talk about it as though it’s a necessity for us to support others, see the good in them, reach out to them and be a shining light, and yet it somehow seems alien, unnecessary or maybe even too indulgent to do it for ourselves?

We were not born this way! If this is something you find challenging, you have ‘learnt’ or ‘thought’ your way out of naturally seeing your core nature of love and compassion. The reason I said above does the perfect finished article exist, is because in my eyes it does, but maybe not in the way you initially think of perfection! We are all perfectly imperfect. Part of my own experience of showing myself a tonne more love, compassion and understanding was that I could accept that I was not and did not need to be perfect, and in actual fact it is all of me that makes me perfect just the way I am. Instead of always thinking I need to be better and do better, I am much more able to lower my expectations and the pressure on myself so that it is much easier to see myself as good enough just as I am, I change the goalposts, not myself.

One more thing to mention is that I know some people will read this and say there are some things people do need to change and there are habits that I have that I don’t want to continue with, they are not good for me or my life. Thats OK so do I. These are my habits and they can change without me having to be a super human and in fact the irony is, if I lower my expectations, the pressure I put on myself and accept myself as I am. A large part of getting a quieter mind and there for feeling better in ourselves starts with that daily dose of compassion, so you can start NOW, right this very second!

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Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

Helen Skelton on her career, motherhood and changing the narrative

© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER CHILDREN

“…things happen in life and then you get put on a different path

Inspirational Mum of three, Helen Skelton, is one of Britain’s best-loved Television presenters. Helen started her presenting career at Newsround before landing a dream role at Blue Peter, where she completed numerous extreme challenges for charity. Incredibly Helen has kayaked over 2,000 miles along the Amazon River, and cycled 500 miles to the South Pole, both for Sport Relief. Her amazing career has included many highlights including meeting the iconic late Queen Elizabeth II. Not one to shy away from a challenge, this year she is taking on what will probably be her hardest yet, as she joins BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Class of 2022; whilst juggling life as a single mum, looking after her 3 young children, Ernie, Louis and Elsie.

The stunning Countryfile presenter kindly took time out from her summer holiday in the Lake District to chat to us about her career, motherhood, and changing the narrative as she embraces the new journey she has found herself on, since announcing her sadness at her marriage ending, only a few months after her youngest child Elsie was born.

Helen Skelton Interview with Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. HELEN SKELTON AND TWO OF HER THREE CHILDREN

“…I’m on a journey right now!

What was your career like before kids?

I was working as a journalist; I was originally working in PR, but I hated it and knew that I wanted to be a journalist… so I ended up at Newsround which was great – I loved it! Then I got offered Blue Peter, but I actually said no to Blue Peter at first because I was enjoying Newsround so much. But my boss at Newsround said to me ‘you can’t not do Blue Peter’. So, I took it, and it was the best gig of my life! It was so amazing, one week you would be going to Malta to ballroom dance, the week after you would be flying with the red arrows and the week after going to meet the queen! We would go away for 7 weeks for the summer going from one country to the next… it was just incredible! After doing so many amazing things, that I didn’t think I could top, such as going to the south pole, north pole and the amazon doing the expeditions, I decided it was time to leave. So, I then went back into sport and started working at BT Sport.

How do you find managing your career alongside motherhood?

I had Ernie in 2015, and since then, it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids. I still worked after I had Ernie, like the sport presenting – which was good because it was an intense week and then you’d be off again. That’s why I do less Countryfile, as much as I love Countryfile and I’m really good friends with everyone at the show, but the reason I don’t do it as often is because you have to be away Wednesday and Thursday nights, it’s the other end of the country and it just doesn’t fit with me having little kids. But the other farming show [Channel 5’s On the Farm] that I do is live, so you’re on at 8 o clock at night and you’re off at 10. So I go, get my tea made for me, have my face painted, do my work and then I’m back home.

I think because I’m freelance and self-employed, I feel lucky in that it can be intense at work so you’re ticking your career box and doing your thing there, but then the week after, you can potentially be off for three weeks so then you’re being a full-time mummy again. So, I feel lucky that I get my foot in both camps. I’d like to think that I’ve got a bit more empathy for my friends who work full time and for those who don’t work.

What is your experience with Mum Guilt?

Every mum I know at some point or another feels ‘Mum guilt.’ They feel guilty if they work too much, or they feel guilty that they don’t work enough, the whole thing is a juggle. My mum was lucky, we grew up on this farm, so she didn’t work and that’s the dream for some, but life’s different now. And I don’t think anyone should look at other people’s situations and make assumptions, because I’ve done it myself where I’ve thought ‘gosh she work’s a lot! She must hardly ever see her kids?’ But then I stop myself because I think, you know what, we’ve all got to buy food! That whole thing of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is so true. I don’t think you can ever say which is the right way to do it, because everyone’s kids and everyone’s situation is different, you can only do what’s right for you and not compare yourself. But it can be hard not to do that because of social media.

You have to remember social media is a superficial top layer of people’s lives, although it’s hard to remember that at times, is important to remind yourself of that. But no one is made of metal but equally every situation is different.

Mine are terrible sleepers, they both like to sleep in my bed which isn’t good, but then other people will be like ‘well that isn’t good?’ Rather than ‘oh that’s nice because they’ll be 18 soon!’ [she laughs] – but it’s survival! I got my eldest to sleep in his own bed the other night and he was negotiating a deal and said he would for £20! I was like – ‘I can’t give you £20 a night!’ – No wonder I’ve had to go back to work! [she jokes.]

Helen Skelton
Helen Skelton © BROOD MAGAZINE

“…it’s always been about taking on work that fits around the kids.”

What was the biggest adaptations that you have made to your life since your children have come along.

Work and travel, I think. I took Louis with me to the world diving championships in Budapest when he was 6 weeks old, I say to him now, you actully saw Tom Daly win his second world title and it just goes [gestures] straight over his head so I don’t even think the biggest adaptations came in when they were babies. I think the bigger adaptions come in when they start school, as obviously they’ve got be somewhere 9-3 so you’re on their schedule then. I notice a lot of my friends who have toddlers will say ‘shall we meet for brunch on Saturday’ [for example], and I’m like, ‘No, sorry I can’t, I’ve got a 15-minute gap between swimming and play dates and it does not include any kind of brunch situation!’ [laughing] I think when you’ve got little kids they will go where you want, you can pop them in the pushchair and bring them along with you, but bigger kids don’t always want to.

Having more than one kid is big change, because you can only split yourself so many ways. Having Elsie though has actually made the boys nicer! They are so sweet with her. I do say to them, ‘you’re so nice with Elsie can you just be a little bit nicer to each other!’ (Because they do fight as siblings close in age do.) So, I love seeing that kindness in them, it melts my heart.

Your next challenge is Strictly Come Dancing! How are you feeling about tackling that alongside your life as a mum?

Part of me thinks it’s bad timing and the other part of me thinks it is good timing. Elsie is only little so she’s not crawling around yet, so she’s little enough to be quite placid and sleep a lot. I think sometimes it’s easy to overthink these things, but when I was asked, it was like ‘You know what, yes! Let’s do it!’ – I’m excited too because I think it looks fun! I love taking on new challenges and putting myself under pressure and having my mind consumed in that way, so that’s another reason I wanted to do it. It’s weird because I have been asked to do things like this before and I’ve always said no because of the kids, but now I’m doing it when I’ve got a nine-month-old as well, but the kids are in school, so in my head I’m thinking that I’m going to train while they’re in school and Elsie is young enough for it to not be on her radar or affect her. But then again, this could well turn out to be the most stupid decision I’ve made in my entire life – but let’s hope it’s not! [she laughs]

I think sometimes, especially in this career you can overthink things and try and plan but sometimes you’ve just got to go with what comes along. Very few people are in the position that they don’t have to work, and this is a job that will be fun and a distraction and all consuming and something positive for me, the kids, my parents, and my friends. That was another reason that I wanted to do it. To do something positive and change the narrative, I guess.

Also, you spend your life telling your kids, ‘Do what makes you happy’, ‘Go after whatever you want’ ‘Dream Big’ so you have to lead by example.

I think no matter what you do and what you plan, things happen in life and then you get put on a different path, so sometimes there is no point putting down a roadmap.

What tips would you give other working parents?

Oh, I’ve got loads of tips – I’m on a journey at the moment. Firstly, lower the standards! I think unfollow people who don’t have a similar life to you. For example, if you’re a working mum, don’t follow a mum who doesn’t work, follow someone who is doing the juggle. Or if you don’t work, follow someone who doesn’t work, because I think you if you compare apples to pears yours will never be as good. I’ve been given lots of tips myself lately, including find companies that will deliver healthy meals – like meals on wheels but for parents. Then that takes the pressure off grabbing something naff for yourself, you can get them pre ordered just a couple of times a week and the whole family has got a healthy home cooked meal. Just make life easier for yourself. Another one is, have a notepad by the bed because every has them things where they wake up in the night where they are like ‘oh s&*t they need a yellow t-shirt for tomorrow’. I also think delegate stuff in your life that you don’t need to do yourself. Like I hate cleaning, so I got a cleaner. I felt really bad about it at first, I felt really middle-class, and I would tidy up before they came, but then the lady said to me ‘why are you doing that, you are paying me to do this?’ Oh, and don’t buy clothes that you need to iron! Again, why are you doing that to yourself. And finally, I have a present cupboard because there is always a party that you have forgotten, or you haven’t got time to go to B&M before you go. And a distraction box is always good too when you’ve got multiple children.

What do you mean by a distraction box?

Well, I would always keep a little box on the side, I’ve done this from Louis being born. I will put a couple of snacks in that he would like, a couple of books, or some little cheap toys in there. So then if you’re feeding or changing the baby and your older one wants you too and you can say ‘Go and get something from your box!’ I think that’s it!

Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I vowed never to lose myself when I became a parent.”

Inspirational Mum of two, and BBC Ski Sunday Presenter, Chemmy Alcott, went down in history as being the first British Ski racer to win a world cup run, and she is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever skiers. Chemmy is no stranger to adversity having broken 49 bones in her life, and still returning to the slopes against all odds, so it’s no wonder that when she was offered her dream job as BBC Ski Sunday feature presenter at the same time that she was due to give birth to her first child that she chose to take on the challenge of both roles; returning to work only two weeks after giving birth!

Alongside her successful career as a BBC sports presenter, Chemmy is an inspirational speaker and also runs her own business – CDC Performance – with her husband, 25 Time British Champion Dougie Crawford, providing world class ski coaching and experiences. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chemmy at her lovely family home that she shares with Dougie and their two boys, Locki 5 and Cooper 3, to discuss how she does it all, and why maintaining her own identity is so important to her.  

CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

You returned to work very quickly after having both your boys, did you always plan to return to work so quickly and was it important to you that you kept your own identity outside of being a mum?

“I think I was quite lucky as a lot of my friends had kids before me, so I saw them really change through parenthood and lose themselves, and so I vowed to never let that happen to me when I became a parent. But I then went completely the other way, as both my babies were born in the January, and I went back to work skiing only two weeks after, with both babies. In fact, our first labour was really complicated, and they were said ‘Look this isn’t going great…’ with my reply being, ‘Don’t even think about a c-section, because I’ve got to ski in two weeks – I’ve got to work!’ Maybe I felt more pressure being female, but I was about to start my dream job at the BBC doing Ski Sunday, and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t give up this role. I don’t want them to give this job to anyone else, this Is my job! I’m going to make it happen!’ So, when they initially offered me the job my naive plan was, I’m going have the baby, I’m going to go straight back to work, Dougie’s amazing at supporting me so we can do this! Although it was crazy, it was just epic, because people just lose themselves so much and it can be so hard to find yourself again, but I never got chance to stop being me. Actually, in skiing they say that if you’ve skied your whole life and then you become a parent, but then you don’t ski for 5 years then you’ll never ski again! It’s because the fear of being responsible for someone else and the danger of the sport just crushes you so much that you never allow yourself to have that play time again. I hoped that wouldn’t happen to me though, although looking back I think it’s pretty mad that I was skiing only a few weeks after having a baby, but I was really fortunate in how my body held up.

It was also quite empowering returning to work so quickly. I remember when Cooper was born and two weeks later, we were at the World Championships, and I was working, interviewing the guy who had just won the World Champs downhill. It was a great interview, and when we finished the interview, the producer said ‘Woah, that was epic! You’re on a buzz!’ And I replied ‘Yeah, I am, and do you know what?’ and he was like ‘What?’, and I put my hand in my bra and I had one of those silent Elvie pumps on and I had made almost half a litre of milk whilst I was doing this interview! Throughout the whole interview I knew I was doing that, I knew I was smashing new motherhood and it just made me feel amazing, I was firing on all cylinders, and no one knew! You’re throwing yourself in at the deep end, and it’s hard but you just feel this overwhelming sense of achievement. But I remember going back to work that first time and I was so sleep deprived, and as an athlete I had this massive superstition that I needed 9 hours sleep a night but then suddenly you become a parent and that is just completely unrealistic! Then obviously two weeks after having Locki I was given this script, I’d barely slept, and I remember questioning myself ‘I can’t even remember my own name! How am I going to remember this script!’  But somehow, I did it, and I think you’ve got to keep challenging yourself and that’s what helps you to keep being your very best self. I think that’s how we’ve been able to maintain this mental crazy lifestyle because we never stepped away from it.”

You spoke briefly about feeling the pressure about being a female and not wanting to lose your dream job role, but was that the only reason that you felt so determined to maintain, being you? 

“I mean there was definitely the element of proving people wrong, because a lot of people said I couldn’t do it. And all my career when I had multiple injuries – when I broke my leg and neck – people said she won’t be able to come back, and it was always a motivating factor to me. It shouldn’t be but you’ve got to look at it one way or another and it either pushes you down and the pressure is too much, or you go ‘Hey, I’ll show you!’ and it was kind of the same with parenthood.

I just feel like if you can do those first few years of being a parent and not lose your own identity, then you will come out of parenthood incredibly strong and incredibly grateful for your kids. At times you can miss the old life that you used to have prior to having kids, you might have single friends and you see them going out and at times you can resent that, but if you stick to still being you and defining who you are away from being a parent, then in the long run it’s just magnificent!”

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“This is my dream job and I’m going to make it happen!”

Did you experience any parent guilt with returning to work so soon and maintaining your own identity?

“Oh yes, the other side of it is certainly that, I suffer horrendously from parent guilt, I’ve suffered from that since becoming a mum, and I used to not want to admit to having a nanny because even though I was back at work after two weeks I didn’t want to admit to having help. But my mum is no longer around, and my dad is unable to help, and Dougie’s parents live in Scotland, so there was no other option really, but for some reason I wanted people to think that we were doing it alone. I think it had always been drilled into you that you were ridiculously well off if you had a nanny, and you were judged for it. It took me a couple of years of people saying, ‘God it’s amazing what you’re doing’, before I could say, ‘well yes, it is amazing, but I have got help too and that’s why I can do it!’ And I realised I needed to be open about it.”

You’ve obviously been a topflight athlete and you’ve been a mum for over 5 years now, which role would you say is harder? 

“Definitely parenthood! Being a parent can be unbelievably hard! Being an athlete is very easy, it’s very simple, your goal is yourself – it’s me, me, me, me. Whereas being a parent is ever evolving, it’s ever challenging, your child is constantly changing and trying to define who they are, and you have to change with them. I fight the urge to read a lot of books about parenting and how to talk to your kids, because I think ultimately you learn through your mistakes. I feel like I’ve already made mistakes that I felt were a good idea at the time and then as they get older you realise that it maybe wasn’t the best approach. For 8 years during my career as a ski racer, when I had the opportunity to win and I was healthy, I chose to underperform, because I had this horrendous fear of failure and I couldn’t manage everyone else’s expectations of me being this very talented athlete, so I chose to perform at 80% and I kept 20% in my back pocket to self-validate why I wasn’t winning. So, I never took risks, and I was never the best that I could be, and it was good on the world stage, but it was never my best and it was a very unsatisfactory way to live; so, when I became a parent, I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to let them charge! And be 100% and make mistakes.’ So now I’ve created two absolute nutters who don’t have any fear of failure and who don’t have a fear of making mistakes.”

When your second came along, yourself and Dougie were obviously running your business and you were presenting how did you find the shift from one to two children?

“Well, you think one’s hard but then you have two and it’s just another level of hard! I always wanted three but no, we are done at two!” She laughs “Because we’re just about managing! We’re like the swans on the lake they look like they’ve got everything together, but their feet are going like crazy to get upstream! I do think I’m a much better parent second time around though.”

You spoke about having to deal with horrendous Mum guilt, what tips would you give for working through that?

“Yes, mum guilt is really hard, when you’re at work you feel like you should be with your kids, and when you’re with you’re kids you feel like you should be a work! So, what I did, as I’m really good a goal setting, so for the 5 hours I was at work I would set my goals as to what I want to achieve whilst I’m at work and I’m at work properly the, focused and head down. Then when I’m at home that phone goes to the side, and I am present. I find that is the best way, because I see a lot of people trying to do it all at the same time, but if you’re only giving 50% of yourself then everything is going to start suffering. So, you know, you into your work guns blazing – be there, be present make an impact. Then go home and enjoy quality time with your family. Because the kids notice it when you are distracted, because when I fall foul of my own rules, they’ll say ‘Mummy, you’re not here!’”

 

CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
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