Six months on from welcoming her first child, Chloe Madeley is already experiencing the struggles of being a working mum. The 35-year-old went back to her job as a personal trainer eight weeks after the arrival of her daughter Bodhi, explaining financial reasons were the catalyst for her swift return.
Chloe would have liked more time with the baby she shares with her husband, the former rugby union player James Haskell. But the daughter of TV stars Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan decided to cut short her maternity leave because she “needs the money”.
“James obviously makes a great income and he’s my partner and that’s fantastic, but we don’t have a joint account,” she explains.
“We’ve always had separate accounts and I think that’s a bit of a pride thing with me. Next time, if I get pregnant again, I’m absolutely not doing it. I will swallow my pride, I will jump in on James’ account and take at least six months.”
Busy Chloe is throwing herself into online Zoom workouts and client consultations “pretty much seven days a week”. Luckily, despite having a family history of postnatal depression, she hasn’t suffered any symptoms yet, but admits getting back into her career so soon after having a baby has been “quite intense”.
“With the lack of sleep and the amount of people who are relying on you… that has been a lesson!” says Chloe, who didn’t stop working until she was 39 weeks pregnant.
“I’m lucky I haven’t had any mental health issues, but during this time when you’re very susceptible to it, take your time. If you’re self-employed it’s tough, but really take your time going back to work – that was a hard lesson for me.”
Although she loves her job, Bodhi is still Chloe’s priority. In fact, taking to motherhood so well has come as a bit of a surprise as she explains she spent a “long time” unsure whether she wanted children.
“I have a very successful career, I love travelling, I’m a bit of a party girl and I have quite a fun lifestyle in London and I was like, ‘Having kids looks a bit s**t – expensive, time-consuming, boring and you have to sacrifice a lot.’
“I finally decided I really wanted to have kids and got pregnant and then in my third trimester I slightly regressed and panicked that I might have made the wrong decision.”
Lighting up, she adds, “And then the second she was born all the way to now, [it’s been] the best decision I’ve made. I’m really happy I did it, I’ve never loved anything so much in my life and I’m just really pleasantly surprised by how well and organically I’ve taken to it. I’m really relieved!”
Chloe is refreshingly honest about her household dynamic, particularly 37-year-old James’ role as a parent, divulging the no-holds-barred conversation he had with her before they started a family.
“James said to me right from the beginning, ‘I’m not going to slow down with my career.’ He DJs, he goes on stand-up tours, he’s got a podcast, he travels a lot – he’s busy.
“He’s the busiest person I’ve ever met. He was like, ‘I’m really driven by work. I’m financially driven. I’m definitely in this with you, but I’m not going to slow down, so please don’t expect me at any point to be a stay-at-home dad, because I’m not going to do it.’ I was like, ‘Fair enough’.”
But when he is home she says he’s “incredible”. “I never expected him to be here all day every day helping with the baby, but when he is here he’s f***ing hands-on and I’m so grateful for it!”
As well as getting used to the day-to-day challenges of caring for a child, over the past year Chloe and James have refurbished their new family home.
The three of them lived with her parents in north London while the renovations were underway – a time Chloe looks back on fondly, despite initially being hesitant.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to go into labour with my parents milling around the house! I don’t want to come home with a newborn; I don’t know how to have a baby.’
“I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be hell!’ I had a little bit of a meltdown that I managed to compartmentalise and pretend wasn’t happening. [But] it was the best thing that could have happened, I was really pleasantly surprised. It was really helpful, just to have the emotional support.”
Richard and Judy boosted Chloe’s confidence by reassuring her how well she was doing during those early weeks and they were also on hand for baby-sitting duties.
“My mum basically sees her as another daughter,” Chloe says. “My dad sees her as his little granddaughter and is obsessed with her and will just randomly drop into the house to see her. They are brilliant grandparents.”
Bodhi, who was born via C-section in August last year, even has royal admirers as Chloe and James’ friends Zara and Mike Tindall were quick to introduce themselves to the couple’s first-born.
“I think they were two of the first friends that met her. Zara just didn’t let go of her all day,” Chloe laughs. “She was basically Zara’s baby for the day, which was nice for me, because I could sit down with some of our friends and have a cup of tea and a catch-up.”
She adds, “Zara’s an incredible mother, she loves babies and she’s brilliant. She did everything – she changed Bodhi’s nappy, put her down for a nap, the whole thing.
“Mike is an incredible dad and is giving James loads of tips – namely, enjoy this period and don’t over-busy yourself, stop and enjoy it, and I appreciate that advice!”
The royals have been a hot topic for James and Chloe. James has been on a number of TV shows defending Prince Harry following the fallout of his explosive memoir Spare.
So how does she view the situation? “I just think, let them do it and as long as everybody in this country wants a monarchy and wants to talk about the royals as much as they want to talk about them, you can’t criticise any of them for standing up and saying their piece – they’re entitled to,” says Chloe, who attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding with James.
“If you don’t like the monarchy and you’re anti-monarchy, fair enough. Say, ‘Why are we involved in this circus, get rid of them!’ But if you’re pro-monarchy you don’t get to decide which royals speak and which royals don’t. Suck it up!”
Looking to her own family’s future, Chloe would love another baby, but not for another three to four years – which prompts her to ask herself during our interview whether she should freeze her eggs. We wonder if this is because it took a while to conceive their first child.
“It’s not as easy to get pregnant in your mid-thirties as it would have been in your mid-twenties,” she muses. “I’m aware now, with age being a huge factor, it would be pretty smart for me to hedge my bets and freeze my eggs.”
In the meantime Chloe has teamed up with healthcare company Sanofi to raise awareness of its Together Against RSV campaign. She found out about respiratory syncytial virus – which can cause croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia – when her nephew Kit experienced it.
But it came even closer to home recently when Bodhi was under the weather, which made Chloe fear she had RSV, sepsis or meningitis.
“She was incredibly hot – I took her temperature and she was 39.9°C, which is far too high,” she says.
“I took her straight to A&E and they said she had all the signs and symptoms of RSV. They said if you spot any listlessness, if she stops feeding, has dry nappies, gets a really bad cough, blue lips, then bring her back because it’s progressing and we need to take another look at her.”
The next day Bodhi’s temperature dropped to hypothermia levels (below 35°C), prompting a hospital dash and doctors diagnosing her with a flu virus.
“One of the things I really like about the Together Against RSV campaign is that it’s really focused on the parents and their mental health and how they deal with it,” adds Chloe. “Because it’s really scary, especially when it’s your first baby like me.”
Chloe is supporting Sanofi’s Together Against RSV campaign to raise awareness of infant RSV. Visit sanofipasteur.co.uk/public/rsv for more details
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