'I have learnt such a lot by being a mum'
The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge tells Gabrielle Fagan about her perfect recipe for mixing motherhood, marriage and music
Growing up's a funny process which can happen at different stages of life, but Frankie Bridge believes it's becoming a wife and mother of two that has transformed her from child star and pop princess into a fully-fledged adult.
"Being married and having kids really makes you feel grown up. As a wife, you have to learn to be a lot more selfless and know how to compromise," declares The Saturdays singer who has two sons - Parker (2) and Carter (seven months) - with husband, ex-footballer Wayne Bridge (35).
"I've learnt so much from becoming a parent, about what the really important things in life are - and basically, if my two boys are happy, then I'm happy."
The 27-year-old certainly looks radiant. Her trademark crop has grown to frame her elfin face and she's chatting candidly about juggling work and family life - she recently took part in the Strictly Come Dancing live tour.
"Even though it was wonderful to put my dancing shoes on again and be performing, being away from the kids for three weeks with Strictly was difficult. There were tears each time I left them, and I came home on every day I got off, no matter how far away I was," says Bridge, who was runner-up on the show in 2014, but had to miss the 2015 tour because she was pregnant with Carter and suffered extreme sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum.
Bridge, who first found fame aged 12 in S Club Juniors, the adolescent spin-off of the hugely successful pop group S Club 7, says: "I've always wanted to be a working mum - my mum worked and balanced it with family - but I couldn't have coped with being away from the boys without Wayne. He's fantastic with the kids and, as he's retired, he's a stay-at-home-dad at the moment. He's so good at playing with them and keeping them entertained.
"I missed Wayne, too, of course, especially as he'd always come with me when I toured with The Saturdays, but we couldn't do that with two children to look after who need their routine. Parker's just started at nursery and it's important both boys feel settled. Again, it's all about being mature and putting them first, they are my priority."
Fulfilling her work and family commitments is helped by the fact she's finding motherhood much easier now. "First time around you don't know what to expect, and Parker really wasn't easy. He suffered from reflux and colic, so he cried a lot, but I call Carter my 'angel baby'. I can virtually count on one hand the number of times he's cried. He's really smiley, happy and chilled-out, and went into quite a good sleeping pattern naturally, so I feel really lucky with him," she says.
It hasn't always been that way for Bridge, who's battled anxiety and depression in the past, and shortly after she started dating Wayne, went into hospital for treatment.
"I'm very happy and relaxed these days. We went through that tough time at the start and that undoubtedly deepened our relationship," says Bridge, who married Wayne (pictured below) two years ago.
"I was really excited about becoming Mrs Bridge," says the star, whose maiden name was Sandford. "We thought about making it a double barrelled name but then we realised it would sound like Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea football ground.
"It's quite a manic household with two children under three, and Parker is incredibly active and energetic so there's never a dull moment, but that's what I love. It's so nice seeing the boys together, too. Parker was a little jealous initially, but it quickly wore off and he's taken to Carter really well now, and loves sitting with him and passing him toys."
While The Saturdays - Mollie King, Vanessa White, Una Foden and Rochelle Humes - are on a break ("we haven't broken up"), they're still in touch and meet socially. Foden has a daughter, Aoife (4) and one-year-old son Tadhg, and Humes has a two-year-old daughter, Alaia-Mai.
"It's great when we all get together - a bit like an extended family," says Bridge. "We have a WhatsApp group full of baby pictures. I think we've shown that you can have a life outside music and still be successful."
She's undecided about whether she and Wayne will have more children. "I certainly wouldn't look forward to feeling that sick again, as I did with Carter. Once you've had hyperemesis, it's quite likely to reoccur in the next pregnancy unfortunately. But I'm still quite young, so never say never," she says.
Petite and slim, she's already regained her figure after having Carter - "being stuck in a gym working out doesn't do it for me so I do boxing and Pilates with friends" - but beyond her healthy glow, there's also the sense she's happy in her own skin and robust enough to handle the downside of fame.
She experienced cruel online trolling during her first pregnancy when, due to water retention, she put on three stone and was targeted for being 'fat'. It was one reason why she took part in a BBC documentary about social media and online trolls last year.
"That sort of personal criticism is always hard to take, but sadly the internet can be used by some people who want to be faceless and say horrible things," she says.
"But that sort of thing doesn't bother me much any more - I just ignore it. If you're feeling less confident and a bit insecure, it hurts you more. But I'm fine, fit and healthy and have such a happy, full life. That's what I focus on."
Frankie Bridge is supporting the Superdrug and P&G FeelSuper Campaign, raising money for Marie Curie. Until April 5, a donation will be made on sales of selected P&G products in Superdrug stores and on Superdrug.com