Here at This Welsh Mother, we want to bring you new and fresh perspectives on pregnancy and parenting – from a variety of different people. That’s why we’re thrilled to be launching the ‘This Welsh Mother Meets’ interview series! Our staff writer Charlotte Archibald sat down with BBC Wales presenter Claire Summers to chat about parenting a toddler, life with a family in South Wales and how to balance parenting with a demanding job.
Claire Summers was born in Cardiff but brought up in Cowbridge. She gained a BA degree at Aberystwyth University and a post-graduate degree in journalism from the University of Cardiff.
Claire started her career at Channel One television in Bristol, where she reported, filmed, edited and presented programmes. She joined BBC Wales in 2000. With Summers and Jason Mohammad the youngest members of the BBC Wales Today team, they were often asked to undertake the activity-based reports - such as in 2005, where Summers had to lead a Welsh Black cow called Ceridwen at the Royal Welsh Show. On 8 September 2008, Summers became chief sports presenter for Wales Today.
We asked Claire,
What does an average work day look like for you?
Since having Charlie I've returned to work part-time, so I do 30 hours...over three days! An average workday is aiming to get into the office before 8:30 am. Not because I actually start then - but I feel happier dropping Charlie off at crèche before they have their breakfast which helps him settle better for the day.
Working in news is exciting and often unpredictable...because anything can happen and we have to be ready to react. I could end up doing an interview, presenting in the studio or be live somewhere for an outside broadcast. The early team come in for the breakfast shifts and then we work towards the 1:30 pm bulletin and our main programme at 6:30 pm.
Lots of my friends in work "wind down" around 4pm...that’s when my team is winding up! My mum picks Charlie up from crèche around 3 pm and I relax a bit when I know she's got him for the rest of the afternoon – he loves spending time with her.
It gets very busy towards transmission, as reporters finish their pieces, links are checked and headlines are all cut. But it's like a well-oiled machine...it always comes together! Sometimes it does get hairy...but that just means it never feels stale!
I'm often presenting in the studio, so will head down around 6 pm for some much-needed makeup and a hair check and then we go on air. We have a short meeting after the programme and I dash home, hoping Charlie is still awake so I can have a cuddle. My husband despairs because Charlie can be almost asleep when I get home, but 10 hours away from him feels too long and I relish those few minutes before bedtime!
How do you manage to balance your career in the media with being a mum?
My job is demanding and I'm totally committed but when you have a baby, a piece of your brain is forever tuned into wondering if your little one is ok. He's never far from my thoughts.
I was once in a news meeting and the crèche called asking for me. My boss told me I could take the call in the meeting room and I had to discuss how loose Charlie's nappy was in front of my colleagues!
It's a daily juggling act. When you walk in the office, people don't know you've only had only a few hours’ sleep, been kicked all night by a toddler sharing your bed, had to change because they took the lid of their cup and tipped it over you or that you've had to deal with a screaming two-year-old refusing to get in his car seat because he wants to see the Gruffalo in the hedge!
When your maternity leave is up and you face going back to work it's terrifying. And you can't win. My days off with Charlie are exhausting - you become chief entertainer from the crack of dawn - and it's a long day. I cheer when my husband walks in at 6 every evening! And yet, when you return to work, you're there for 10 hours and grabbing just 45 minutes before work with him, that can be a total wrench.
I think being a mum is an incredible leveller. It has forced me to change my priorities and I see the world differently these days. Being a mum is the hardest job of all!
What has been your most embarrassing 'mum-moment' so far?
Where do I start? I've had many embarrassing "mum moments"! Turning up to do an interview with a roller in the back of my hair, having to do a U-turn on the A48 because Charlie's thrown my purse out of the window, and I was once at a press conference and realised during filming there was a terrible smell. Afterwards, I looked inside my handbag (it's the size of a small tent these days) and realised I'd left a dirty nappy in there from the day before! Charlie was also sick on Derek the weatherman, the first time he met him. Uncle Derek didn't take offence thank goodness!
Any special advice for dealing with a toddler tantrum?
I have no secret weapon…and I've tried most things! Naughty step, threatening bed, getting cross, trying to reason, laughing out loud. But what seems to work best for us is a distraction. Just changing the subject. It's working...at the moment...sometimes! But there are those times when you're in the supermarket or in a restaurant and you just have to ride it out. There are times I've wanted to run - those times when you know there's no reasoning - and you know you can't win!
You live in the Vale of Glamorgan. What do you love most about raising a family in the Vale?
We are so lucky to live in a beautiful part of Wales with so much to do on our doorstep. We are minutes away from beaches and great country walks. We often head to Barry sea front, or go to the dunes at Merthyr Mawr. We've got fruit picking at Hendrewennol on the doorstep. Charlie loves taking his scooter along the Barrage at Penarth Marina...and I’ve lost count of the hours I've spent at Bijous soft play in Cowbridge on a rainy day! There are lots of family-friendly days in the calendar and so many places to visit that are geared up for children. The Vale is a great place to live.
What is your favourite toddler-friendly day out in South Wales?
Duffryn Gardens is minutes from the house and it's one of our favourite places. I can grab a coffee and Charlie just runs around all the open spaces! The gardens change with the seasons, they are simply stunning and Christmas there is magical. In the summer you can take a picnic and the kids can just run around. It's the perfect place to get some fresh air and stretch your legs! They've just built a log park and Charlie absolutely loves it, it’s the most perfect natural playground. Peppa Pig has a lot to answer for and jumping in muddy puddles is a big favourite.
If you're taking a family trip further afield in Wales, where do you tend to go?
Tenby is one of our other favourite spots. My husband and I both spent many summers there growing up and it's so lovely to make new memories with our little boy. We've just booked a house for a week there this summer...and the whole family is coming!
What's your favourite thing about being a mum?
I'm constantly tired, the house is in constant need of tidying, and my days of leisurely trips to the hairdresser are gone, but I've never been happier or more content. I may be doing my makeup in the car these days and go to work with my shirt not as crisp as before but I have this little boy that has totally enriched my life. Every day he surprises me. He's the best thing that has ever happened to me.