‘Motherhood Comes At A Cost’ – Frankie Bridge On Body Image, Mental Health And The Have-It-All Myth

'It’s not me wanting to say to women, “You can’t have it all,” because we absolutely can. But it’s questioning the idea you have to have it all.’

Frankie Bridge

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

'I just feel like we’re all tired,’ says Frankie Bridge. ‘I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been at home and done less, or if it’s the stress and the worry of the last 18 months… I can completely understand that whole burnout thing. I find myself all the time saying, “God, I could deal with this normally, what’s wrong with me now?”’

Speaking to Frankie – mum to boys Parker, seven, and Carter, five – and reading her new book on motherhood and mental health, Grow, it’s easy to forget she’s a starry TV presenter, Saturdays singer and married to former England footballer Wayne Bridge. Relatability is a big part of Frankie’s appeal, which has seen her amass 1.3 million Instagram followers and become a regular on Loose Women.

Perhaps it’s her openness that makes us feel she’s ‘one of us’. Frankie has spoken previously about her hospitalisation with depression in 2011, taking antidepressants while pregnant and her eating disorder. Now, she’s exploring the link between being a parent and mental health, with insights from her personal battles as well as from her therapist and family paediatrician.

There’s lots of artifice around honesty (ironically) in celebrity and Instagram circles, but Frankie genuinely doesn’t hold back – early in the book she talks about motherhood ‘coming at a cost’. It’s certainly no yummy-mummy manual.

‘That’s something people will probably give me stick for,’ she says. ‘But I do feel it always comes at a cost – whether that’s giving up time with your child to go to work or taking less time for work to be with your child, or if that’s mentally or financially. It’s not me wanting to say to women, “You can’t have it all,” because we absolutely can. But it’s [questioning] the idea you have to have it all. Or you have to want to have it all – not everyone does. And this idea you can have it all and do it all at 100% and enjoy every second of it.’

On that note, Frankie admits to having night nurses and a nanny (‘until Parker was like nine months’). ‘It was important for me to be honest about that, whether I get shit for it or not,’ she says. ‘It really irritates me when I see people in the public eye who pretend they do it all and I know they don’t.’

Instead, she now recognises the juggle most parents work with daily. ‘I think more and more people are having to look at different ways of childcare,’ she says. ‘It’s not like the old days where just the men worked… Wayne does more of the childcare than I do now. And I don’t see that as a big deal. And it annoys me that other people do.’

For Frankie, the hardest part of becoming a parent was actually during pregnancy, when antenatal depression hit hard. Specifically, when she found herself dealing with a four-stone weight gain.

‘I did find that really difficult,’ she says. ‘Especially being in the position I was in, still performing. I didn’t feel like myself. At the time, my body was part of my armour, part of my confidence. And I’d lost that. So then I was like, “Without that, who am I? Who am I? What am I?”’

A mother at 24 (she’s now 32), she was the first of her friends to give birth and says the bodily changes she experienced shocked her. ‘It’s scary because everything else is changing,’ she laughs. ‘Before you have a baby, boobs can be quite a sexual thing. I was like, “Oh, my god, they’re never going to return to normal. Am I going to want to get them out? Is Wayne going to like them any more?” And the size of your vagina – that was scary. I was like, “Is any of it going to go back to normal?”’

In a world where body positivity has become another standard for women to live up to, Frankie’s admissions about not feeling that way are brave. She admits in the book she’s never been able to love the stretch marks she gained when pregnant, as Instagram says you should. ‘I’d love to be like that, but I’m just not that person,’ she says. ‘I want to have my children, but I don’t want to look like I have them. You’re not really allowed to say that. Some days I go, “It is what it is.” But sometimes I carry it around like a shame that I’ve gained so much weight while I was pregnant, and I lost control. And maybe if I hadn’t had the eating disorder before, maybe I wouldn’t feel as strongly about that now, and wouldn’t see it as so shameful.’

Frankie continued to take medication to support her mental health throughout both pregnancies, something she says is still considered controversial and which people often thank her for talking about (though she notes it’s crucial people talk things through with their GP). ‘It was a conversation with my psychiatrist where he was like, “If you don’t stay on yours, when your baby is born there is a high chance that you won’t be able to be around to be a mother to that newborn.” And to me that was not worth the risk.’

She hopes, then, that her sons will understand her sharing their lives, to keep those conversations open. ‘Now my kids are at an age where, if they don’t want to do something [on social media], I won’t make them do it,’ she says. In terms of the book, she adds, ‘But equally, sometimes the need and want to help others and help people feel normalised… I hope my children just appreciate when they’re older that they were a part of that.’

Frankie’s book,‘Grow’, is out 19 August (£18.99, Brazen)

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