Presenter and former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, 45, on anxiety, the pressures of motherhood and writing her first-ever book.
What did it feel like seeing your new book in print? I can’t believe it’s your first one…
I do get that reaction from people! Even my own mother is like, ‘What? You don’t have an autobiography out there?’ Everyone assumes I’ve already written a book.
But this one feels really natural to write because the last 13 years have been taken up by my children. I felt like I wanted to be open about motherhood and the reality of it.
When we have babies we get nervous of telling other mums that breastfeeding hurts. I wanted to be honest.
You were a very nervous new mum. What was the worst moment?
Oh my God, I was such a nervous mum. When I was pregnant for the first time I was phoning doctors constantly, saying, ‘I’ve eaten such and such – what have I done?’
Then, when they’re born, mum guilt happens immediately – the whole ‘am I doing the right things?’ It was an emotion that hit me pretty hard and I’m not sure I was expecting that, even though my mum is exactly the same.
She still is. I was walking down the stairs the other day and she was like, ‘Be careful!’ I said, ‘Mum, be careful of what?’ and she said, ‘Of walking down the stairs!’ I was like, ‘Mum, I’m 45 now and I’m just walking down the stairs!’
But even now, with my children, I do worry constantly that they’re OK at school.
You appeared on stage with the Spice Girls four months after giving birth. Was that hard?
It was tough and, looking back now, even though I had incredible support from Jade [Jones, her partner] and my mother, my body was not ready for it.
I fell a couple of times on stage and I would come off and ask the physio ‘What’s going on?’ and they’d say, ‘Your body is not back to normal yet.’
I loved being around the girls, I felt so lucky I had my baby with me, but physically it was hard.
We had wonderful costumes but I was breastfeeding and didn’t feel at my sexiest. There was a lot of Spanx going on!
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve had from another Spice Girl?
I spent a lot of time with Geri [Horner] when she was pregnant and vice versa but there’s one bit of advice I think we all shared with each other, which is to take your time and try not to rush because everything felt like it was so fast and so pressured.
Taking time for yourself and your baby to enjoy the moment is so important, and in this day and age, and with what’s happened with Covid, lockdown did seem to change all that. It seemed to slow life down and give us the chance to enjoy things.
As Spice mums, we’ve always stayed in touch, swapped messages and news, and kept up with children’s birthdays.
On our last tour we had a family room and it was great because we were on stage and our kids were all offstage, playing together.
What about mental health and motherhood?
I am so glad that we are now in a world where people are talking about mental health issues. I’ve been very lucky growing up with very close-knit family.
My mum has been through her own anxieties. With my children I didn’t have any depressed moments but I definitely had anxiety.
It can be debilitating and it’s sometimes tough to know what’s the right thing to do. But talking, speaking with my mum, having Jade with me, thank goodness, helped me at the time.
We are now luckily in a time where people talk about everything – and I encourage my children to be very open with me.
What about the pressure to be a perfect mum?
Another reason for writing this book was because I was reading books with my first born which said ‘this is what should be happening now’ and ‘this is what you should be doing’ but there weren’t any real stories and I wanted to tell other mums what I’d been through.
I’ve forgotten bibs and I’ve been sick on a million times. I’ve forgotten the nappy bag and been halfway round the park and there’s poo everywhere. I’m definitely one of those mums who is in no way perfect and I learned a lot along the way.
I say you’ll drop many balls but pick them up and try again and never feel under pressure to be perfect.
I do get a pang when I watch the perfect mums who have not one bit of food on their work outfits. I had dummies all over the place and food in my pockets. I’d think, ‘How did that baby rusk get in there?’
Before the Spice Girls, you mugged someone in EastEnders!
Many years ago! It was funny because I was at Sylvia Young Theatre School and doing lots of acting work but they always cast me as someone evil.
I did a Harold Pinter play where I had to attack somebody, then I was a teenage mugger on EastEnders.
I did ads too and was part of a wedding cake for a Halifax ad and another for Outspan Oranges, which my mum loves. I’m like, ‘Mum, I’m appearing in a stadium’ and she’s like, ‘Argh, but that Outspan Oranges ad was so lovely!’
Mama You Got This by Emma Bunton (Ebury) is out now
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