ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Askamum.co.uk
'I can't stand Gina Ford!' Sophie Ellis-Bextor on her third son, keeping the relationship spark alive and her kids ending up with office jobs...
By Sally Griffith
Your third son Ray is three months now- how did you come up with the name?
Yeah I’m not sure actually, I love finding names for kids, it’s a bit of pastime. Me and my sister are always going "Oh, that’d be a good name for a baby", you know? If I had another 17 children I’d probably be able to name them all I think! I can’t remember exactly what made me think of the name Ray, but I know I had the name Ray in place by the time I was 12 weeks pregnant.
So when he came out you knew it was him?
One of our readers had pre-eclampsia with both of her sons and she’d love to have another baby but she’s scared of it reoccurring. She just wondered how you felt with your third child having experienced that - were you scared having Ray?
I completely sympathise with her. It’s funny because I kept asking different consultants and they all kind of gave me slightly different answers, and the running theme seemed to be whilst I’d be incredibly unlucky to have it again, given that I’d had it twice, they thought it might happen. But the consultant I had my first two with said, 'you know, it should be ok'. I’m sure your reader would know too- that they don’t take any chances. I felt almost sheepish when I didn’t get ill because they’d been so vigilant, you know, scans every fortnight and that kind of thing. And then when I got to 35 weeks they said "That’s it, you don’t need any more scans, you’re fine." I loved getting big and having a healthy chubby baby I could take straight home. He was 7.15lb so a proper, big baby, it was lovely. I could put away all the tiny little premature clothes in the loft because I didn’t need them anymore!
What surprised you, if anything, about the third pregnancy? Was there anything that was different with Ray from the other two?
Well, I guess getting nice and big really ‘cos I’d never really had that bit at the end where you’re kind of properly torpedo, and I actually really liked it! Feeling properly pregnant, getting seats on the tube every time and that kind of thing!
So did you get seats on the tube, because a lot of people say they don’t?
Oh yeah I definitely did. I think it’s because I was really quite big- it was obvious I was pregnant, certainly by the end! But yeah, I found people alright you know, I think the problem with the tube is that people are just in their own little world, like not looking around themselves so much. But I think people generally think of babies as quite a happy thing- they seem to quite enjoy being around it and playing a part in it so I think people are quite excited about the whole thing really.
Speaking of getting bigger, did you have any funny cravings?
Not so much, just at the beginning I had a bit of morning sickness- well that’s a bit of a misnomer because it lasted all day- but I was feeling a bit rubbish and I was travelling all over Australia and South East Asia and round Europe and there were times when putting on a little playsuit and a pair of four inch heels and doing a gig were not really a lot of fun but you can’t really tell people about it at the beginning, so I just got on with it I suppose.
Did you exercise during the pregnancy, and how did you get rid of the baby weight?
I haven’t actually been back to the gym yet, so don’t make me feel too bad about it! I keep meaning to and then keep cancelling it! But I suppose really because I’m still feeding Ray it’s quite hard to find little windows were I can definitely go off for a little bit and have Ray be alright.
Ray is three months now, which is a really cute age. What do you like about babies when they’re that age, when they’re three months?
I suppose I just like that they smile and react so much. For the first couple of months they’re just little beings that eat all the time but now he can smile and kick about and have properly awake time and he’s alert. It just means that he’ll smile and he can be passed to Grandma and he’ll give her a grin and it’s just a lot more exciting for everyone else and everyone else can participate a bit more I think.
Christmas will be really nice now you’ve got a big old bunch of children.
A reader of ours has three boys aged 10, eight and eight months, and she sometimes finds it hard to keep them all happy and entertained. How do you entertain Sonny, Kit and Ray?
Well I suppose it will get harder because Ray at the moment is just so little. It really just a matter of keeping the three year old a bit stimulated because when you’re eight you can make your own fun a little bit more. The older one likes doing things like making Lego and drawing stuff but its really just a matter of running around the garden with Kit a lot really and getting the water pistols out- it’s much easier when the sun's out definitely!
Is there a crafty element to the activities you do with them?
Yes -what I do a lot with them at home is making music. We’ve got a massive box at home which is full of musical instruments and things they can bash- even Kit will literally get a wooden spoon and a bowl and whack it like a drum kit. There’s an instinct I think in children to make music. People are asking if my kids are musical and I but think most kids like it! I think it’s something that if kids are happy and healthy they want to get involved with because it makes them feel creative and they can use their imagination to make up little songs. But they’re also being encouraged to do, rather than being told to be quiet.
How would you feel about any of your children getting into show business?
If any of them wanted to be a musician I suppose I’d be really excited and it’d be a nice thing for me because I know that world, but I think they’ll probably rebel and not want to do that because it’s almost too much a part of their surroundings at the moment because they’re constantly coming to festivals and sound checks, so I don’t know! We’ll see, but they’ll probably end up in an office job. But if they can always enjoy music I’ll be happy with that, I’d be really sad if they had absolutely no interest in going to gigs or listening to music. So long as it’s part of their lives it’s be nice, because I like seeing that- my eldest is now at that point where he wants to start listening to the radio in his room and buying records and I quite like the fact that he’s got his own musical identity now and it’s not what we’ve been playing him, it’s his own stuff.
It’s an insight into their personality and their likes and dislikes, isn’t it?
Well it’s a rite of passage isn’t it? Most people can remember the first single they bought or whatever. I mean it’s not quite as significant when it’s just a download but… he’ll say to me can we get this for him or can we get that, and sometimes you’ll be thinking "That is awful, please don’t get that!" but you have to let them choose their own music.
What sort of thing?
Oh well, I don’t know, I think it’s more that he likes really quite mainstream pop, just when you’ve got your head in your hands going "No, listen to this instead!" but I’m sure that’s the sort of thing he should be doing, I’m sure I did exactly the same thing when I was little.
Where do you get your musical inspiration?
Spending family time together enjoying music is not only fun but it also encourages creativity amongst children. My love of music came from an early age when I my mother and I used to make instruments, and I’d get dressed up and perform so I could look like my favourite pop stars.
A lot of people have said to me that having a third child once you’ve got two is easier than having a second when you’ve only got one. Would you agree?
Yes I think for me the biggest leap was going from one to two. Two to three feels much easier than going from one to two. I think when you’ve got one you think “Oh I’m just going to have another one, it’ll be fine, they’ll just fall in” but no, you really have got double the amount of stuff to do. Having a third one is really more like you just muck in really! I like having a bigger family but then I know a lot of people who’ve only got one or two, and I think it’s much more about the quality of it and how much time you have for them and what you get up to as a family. I was an only child until I was eight and it was great, I loved having all that time with my parents.
You got pregnant relatively quickly after you met Richard but you’ve been together a really long time. How do you keep the spark between you?
I think time just the two of you spend is really important because I think when you’ve got children you find most of the time you’re together you and your husband end up delegating, like: “Can you do this while I take that one and do that?” So I think just time when you get out and just have supper together, even if it’s just at home actually, and you just sit down when the children are in bed and you just reconnect a little bit. But we work together sometimes at events for a few days abroad together and that’s quite fun, or if I’ve got a job where I’m only away for a night then maybe Richard’ll come with me. You do have to factor it into your priorities, but I think it just happens naturally- there’s a point where you feel ready to come out of the baby bubble.
Do you use any routine with your boys, like Gina Ford?
I can’t stand Gina Ford. I really don’t understand routines with a tiny baby, because they don’t understand what you’re trying to teach them. How can you teach a child that it has to wait ten more minutes for a feed? I know there’ll be people who'll disagree with that and you have to go with what works for you, of course. But that would make me really unhappy. I guess you have to work out how you live your lives before kids and work out what kind of parent you want to be. You could be the sort of person with a tiny home and lots of little to do lists everywhere but I’m just not compatible with that.
What’s the one thing that’s been most helpful to you, that you’ve relied on with having a family and being a working woman?
Accepting help when it’s offered and not putting yourself under too much pressure to get it right all the time. It’s definitely a learning curve - I’m learning things now with Ray that I didn’t do with the others and I think you’re constantly evolving. I think you have to get to the end of each day and if your children are fundamentally happy and sleeping at night then you’ve done the right thing!
Are there any products you’d recommend that have got you through all three of your pregnancies?
I can’t think of anything specific really, it’s all little things like having a Moses basket you can have in the room with you. As long as you've got clean nappies you can pretty much deal with whatever, you know, bathing in the sink and sleeping in a bowl!
It’s all about learning on the job isn’t it?
It is. I think when you first become a parent you’re suddenly part of a market and there’s a lot of guilt tripping, like: “You need this or your child won’t grow up happy, healthy and adjusted” but people have been doing this for longer than those products have existed, you know?
Have you tried controlled crying?
No. I think once they get to sixth months you can do that a bit more, but I think my little one is way too young for that.
Yeah it’s a really contentious issue, people are either really in support of it or really against it.
I know, you have to be careful- I would never judge anybody else’s parenting skills, which is why I’m saying you have to work out what sort of person you are, and you’ve got to go with what works for you. I would never turn to anybody else and say “don’t do that” you know? It’s like a relationship, unless you’re one of the people in that relationship you don’t know how the dynamic works. And I wouldn’t like anyone commenting on my parenting either. You just have to get on with it and if you don’t like the way I’m raising them don’t hang out with me I guess- but by and large I think your friends are fairly similar aren’t they?
One of our readers wants to know what the dynamic is like with you and your husband in terms of parenting? Obviously you see one thing on the red carpet but what’s it like at home- who gets control of the TV remote?
Probably we’re pretty even but I think it’s more likely that he’ll pick the films and I’ll watch whatever he’s watching really but we like a lot of the same things anyway.
What sort of thing do you watch and what are you up to at the moment?
At the moment, we’re on the new series of Breaking Bad which is really good. I've also teamed up with Persil to encourage families to get messy with music this summer, whether that’s by going to family festivals or making instruments and dressing up as your favourite pop idols at home. Music isn’t about being judged, so just have fun, get stuck in, and let Persil take care of the mess!