As Eastenders' Tanya Branning, Jo Joyner has had her fair share of parenting worries! Outside Albert Square, the actor is also a mother to two young children. In this exclusive interview Jo talks honestly about the best and worst things about being a mum, and gives some invaluable advice to any struggling mothers out there.
What are the best and worst things about being a mum?
Lack of sleep and constant guilt are the worst things about being a mum. The best things are everything else! Listening to your kids singing, playing and giggling in another room and knowing that despite all the worrying they’re happy and that’s what matters.
What are your favourite things about your children?
Honestly, I couldn’t choose, that seems like a funny question to me because they’re my babies, there’s not a bit if them, a thing they do or an imperfection that I don’t think is wonderful! So I couldn’t have a favourite bit. I’m just utterly in love with them, warts and all!
What is the biggest challenge you face as a mum?
I think as a mum or dad or any human today it’s that golden chalice of work-life balance. Being the best mum I can be, the best wife I can be and the best actor I can be. It’s pretty exhausting! Being able to show your kids that life is adventurous, exciting and that work is a good thing. Whilst letting them know you’re here whenever they need you and that they are your number one priority.
What one thing would make your life easier as a mum?
Having a wife! No in all seriousness it’s very hard for a modern family to cope without having their own mothers/family near by to help out. My heart goes out to those mothers who are being mothers without their own mum to lean on for help and support. I’d be lost without mine and I hope that one day I can do the same for my kids.
What advice would you give to other mums?
To other mums, I think I’d say don’t demand so much of yourself, spending time with and listening to your kids is more important than having an immaculate home!
And what would you say to your younger, pre-mum self?
I think I’d have told myself to take a whole year’s maternity and not the five months I took. I’m making up for that now though!
Did your own mother give you any advice about becoming a mum?
She once told me that if any mum (or possibly dad nowadays) says that they have never felt like screaming at their child or dropping their baby that extra inch into his cot because they’re at the end of their tether, they’re lying. If and when you do feel that way, make your baby safe and walk away, even outside if you need to. It was invaluable because it’s true.
There will undoubtedly come a time when the sanest of women with all the love in the world will not know how to stop her baby (or babies) crying. I remember vividly a time when I’d done everything I could do. I was alone and they were both screaming in stereo. I was beside myself. So remembered my mum’s words. I put them each in their Moses baskets on the floor facing the window. I walked out of the front door to the top of my garden, in the snow and stood there taking deep breaths. I could see them both screaming at me. But I couldn’t hear them and I took the time to calm down and went back in.
Just thinking about it now makes my heart race! But if I was a young, single mum I’d have felt such guilt and fear at feeling so confused and angry.
I’d love for new mums to know that it’s perfectly normal to feel exhausted and helpless. Make them safe. Walk away and if you need to, ask for help.
Could you help to support mums around the world?
Jo is not the only one to have battled with the challenges and stresses of motherhood. Raising a family is a full time job and it’s a struggle, wherever you live.
For mums in some countries, this is made worse by other factors out of their control – like lack of a basic income, crop failure, or living below the poverty line.
What if you had to choose between eating and paying for your children to go to school? It’s a choice that no mother should have to make. So we’re asking our supporters – whether you’re a parent or not yourself – to help mums when they’re struggling.
Our ‘Mums for Good’ initiative aims to ensure ActionAid can help the hardest-hit mothers in the world to get access to land, grow their own crops and support their families.
Like this? Read more from our celebrity mums
- TV sports presenter Gabby Logan on being a good mum
- Comedian and ‘Peep Show’ star Isy Suttie
- Eastenders actor Sam Womack’s top five tips for mums