Exclusive interview: Sam Womack's top 5 tips for mums | ActionAid UK

Eastenders star and ActionAid supporter Samantha Womack talks about the best and worst things about being a mum and shares her top five tips for other mums bringing up their children.

Samantha Womack on a boat with her daughter, Lily
Samantha Womack with her daughter, Lily

What are the best and worst things about being a mum?

The best thing about being a mum is being part of a family. To me, family are people you can rely on in any circumstance and who give you unconditional love, to support you through life.

The worst thing is constantly worrying about them, from the day-to-day dangers they may face, to worrying about their future and hoping that they won’t get hurt along the way. Oh and the fact that they nick my food is a constant disappointment!

How would your children describe you?

Oh dear! Er, Ben,13, would probably say: She repeats herself, psychoanalyses everything, and is very embarrassing especially when she sings in public (which of course I feel is my job — it goes with the territory of being a mother). But she’s also one of the only people who is allowed to give me cuddles.

I think Lily, 9, would say: Mum is kind, she’s fun to be with, we laugh a lot together and we have the same love for food so we enjoy cooking together — and singing and dancing at the same time (much to Ben’s disapproval!).

What advice would you give to other mums?

  • Pick your battles: Discipline is essential but make sure you allow your child to develop their own sense of independence and try hard not to squash that by being too hard on them. You can’t always win, so choose which battles are worth fighting.
  • There’s no ‘one size fits all’: Don’t worry if they’re not doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing according to the manuals — it doesn’t matter — they’ll find their own way.
  • Education goes beyond the classroom: It’s important to remember that the education children get at school is only a tiny part of what makes them educated, so don’t come down too hard on them if school really isn’t their thing.
  • Don’t mollycoddle: It’s easy to be really paranoid, especially the first time round because you’re scared, so you over-clean, over-feed, and can be over mollycoddling — don’t! Kids like chilled parents. If I could I do it again I’d definitely try to be more chilled!
  • Enjoy them: Paramount is to enjoy them! You forget to do that sometimes.  

What’s your favourite thing about your children?

With Ben, it has to be his observations. His attention to detail when reading people, situations and what’s going on around him is incredible. (Often for comedic purposes: he can mimic me to a tee. It’s hilarious and sometimes brutal!)

With Lily, it’s her utter kindness. She’s ridiculously concerned about other people’s feelings. She approaches everything with compassion. She’s just lovely. 

What is the biggest challenge you face as a mum?

Understanding what’s important to them, and to you. And that changes all the time, from schooling to what can I do to make them the best and happiest version of themselves.

To be a mum is to be a constant. You are responsible for providing the security and comfort that comes from having someone who’s always there and listens without judgement. It’s a wonderful but very daunting responsibility. Kindness and patience are key but it’s very hard when you’re working and doing lots of other things at the same time. Juggling my work and spending time with them is always on my mind.

Being a mum is hard enough as it is, but if you can’t afford to put food on the table or send your children to school it’s even tougher. That’s why we’ve got a new way for you to support amazing mums around the world, and follow their stories.