NL Woman: Holly Willoughby talks motherhood and living in the moment

Holly Willoughby on the set of Play to the Whistle
Holly Willoughby on the set of Play to the Whistle

New baby, new TV show... Holly Willoughby’s taking it all in her stride. The presenter talks about why parents should give themselves a break

As a busy mum-of-three - including a six-month-old baby - Holly Willoughby is grateful for any ‘me time’ she can get. So when she lands in the make-up chair for her new prime time show Play To The Whistle, it’s a chance for some much-needed pampering.

“You go in and say, ‘Can you just pluck my eyebrows please?’, and things like that. I leave there feeling slightly normal again,” says the presenter, who’s on maternity leave from This Morning after giving birth to son Chester in September.

There’s also a chance for a drink in the green room when filming wraps on the sports-themed comedy panel show, in which two teams (captained by footballer Frank Lampard and comedian Bradley Walsh) go head-to-head to prove their sporting prowess.

But big nights out are few and far between for the Sussex-raised star, who is also mum to Harry, who turns six in May, and four-year-old Belle.

“It’s just not worth it. It’s fun at the time, and then the next day you go, ‘Oh, I can’t do it’, it makes it all so much harder,” Willoughby confesses with a laugh. “Until Chester’s sleeping through and he’s a little bit older, it’s a treat at the moment.”

These days, she’s more likely to settle down with a cup of tea to watch pal Phillip Schofield on This Morning (although she and Schofield, who she first presented with in 2006 on Dancing On Ice, did enjoy a boozy lunch recently).

The former teen model, who cut her broadcasting teeth in children’s television, had assumed becoming a mum for the third time would be “like falling off a log”.

“But honestly, [Chester] felt like my first. He had really bad reflux and a tongue-tie [a tight piece of skin at the bottom of the tongue which restricts movement] when he was first born, which really affected his feeding. I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt along the way is just to give yourself a break.

‘‘We’re all so worried about doing everything so perfectly, and actually, all they need is your time and your love. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.”

Play To The Whistle sees Willoughby working once again with her TV producer husband, Dan Baldwin.

The pair met in 2004 on the set of Ministry Of Mayhem, the Saturday morning show which gave Willoughby her big break, and wed in 2007.

They’ve also worked alongside each other on the rather more risque ITV2 panel show Celebrity Juice.

“I was so lucky to meet Dan when I did. I was quite young but it just means you get longer with him. We had time before we had our first child, but we were ready to have children quite early,” says Willoughby.

“Now I’m 34 and they’re all here, they’ve all arrived, and I’ve just got to look after them. It’s really nice.”

Willoughby has no plans to expand her brood further.

“Since Chester’s come along, the family feels in a good place. Three just feels like a good number. We’re very happy, lucky and blessed with what we have.”

In the Willoughby-Baldwin home, football is on “constantly”, but despite her sporty new show, Willoughby isn’t a huge fan.

“I love the fact that Harry and my husband sit and watch it together and it’s a thing that really joins them together. But apart from that, my knowledge of football isn’t brilliant. It’s getting better, but it isn’t brilliant,” she says.

“I don’t want people to be put off by the fact that [Play To The Whistle] is a sports panel show if they don’t like sport, because actually, it’s just entertaining. The clips are great; it’s a good fun show for everybody.”

Belle, meanwhile, is taking football lessons. “She’s girly, but she’s also a bit of a tomboy too,” says Willoughby. “She’s got a little team she plays for, but she’ll be playing it in a Cinderella dress!”

There’s also more Surprise Surprise! in the pipeline, with a new series of the ITV tear-jerker set to air this summer.

With so many heartstring-tugging tales on the ITV show, waterproof mascara is “a must”, says Willoughby, who describes herself as “one of life’s criers”.

“The thing is, I have read about the stories and listened to them quite a few times before I get on set, but sometimes, it catches me out,” she admits.

“It’s a natural feeling that just comes out. Sometimes, you have to have a cry.”

Having achieved so much by her mid-30s, Willoughby is clearly driven when it comes to her career. But she insists it’s important to appreciate the here and now.

“I think one of the best things I’ve learnt in life is to not keep thinking about what’s around the corner,” she says.

“Sometimes, you can chase your tail a little bit, trying to get to the next thing - whether that day, or the next level in life or the career ladder.

“Yes, it’s good to have ambition, but it’s really important to appreciate where you are at that moment. Otherwise you never live in the now.”

:: Play To The Whistle airs on ITV on Saturday nights