Harry Judd: 'I do think it's important to talk about the ups and downs of parenting'
Former Strictly winner Harry Judd opens up to Gabrielle Fagan about the highs and lows of raising children and how he struggled initially to bond with his son Kit
It would be all too easy to assume that, with a stream of happy family snaps on their Instagram feeds, life for Harry Judd and his wife Izzy was picture perfect, and that celebrity somehow cocoons them from any ups and downs.
But the couple have been open about their traumatic experience of struggling with infertility and miscarriage.
Their daughter, Lola, was born three years ago after Izzy had IVF, which she revealed in her book, Dare To Dream: My Struggle To Become A Mum, in the hope of helping and supporting others. Their son Kit, born in 2017, was conceived naturally.
Now, with characteristic frankness, McFly drummer Judd - who won Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 and recently starred in West End musical Rip It Up - The 60s - has opened up about the realities of parenting, sharing the stresses as well as joys and even admitting he struggled to bond initially with their second child.
"Parenting is better than I ever dreamt, beyond my expectations and incredible, but also far harder than I thought it would be," says Essex-born Judd (33) who's teamed up with WaterWipes on a campaign to inspire self-belief in parents.
The couple were overjoyed when Kit was born. But Judd has been honest in revealing that after his birth, he didn't feel an "instant connection", and that coping with two children 19 months apart, with both he and Izzy working, made the first six months "some of the trickiest months for us as parents".
"If you experience weeks on end of sleep deprivation - Kit wasn't as easy a baby as Lola - it's like being tortured," he says. "You're absolutely exhausted and getting off to sleep, and suddenly you hear that crying again. It can put a strain on your relationship when you're both tired out and trying to cope."
Now, he says he's "completely besotted" with his son and Lola's got "Daddy completely wrapped around her little finger". And Judd stresses that they're a "very lucky, happy family and I don't ever want to seem as though I'm complaining. But I do think it's important to talk about the ups and downs of parenting and be honest about it," he adds.
It's all about "keeping it real", he explains. "Parenthood's the most wonderful thing but also really scary at times, and no one really know what they're doing. Everyone's pretty much a learner and with every age and stage comes new challenges. We've always shared our struggles to become parents, and I think it's important to talk about the realities of life now we've become parents."
Here, Judd talks more about his life as a father, what he's learnt about 'daddy day care', and his most frightening parenting moment...
What does fatherhood mean to you?
"It's the pinnacle of life for me. Even from a young age, I looked forward to having children and having the title 'Dad' way surpasses any other title, from artist, drummer, or any other achievement of my life. Nothing makes me prouder than hearing my son and daughter saying 'Daddy'. It's such a special feeling. I adore both of them.
"Fatherhood's made me less selfish. You suddenly realise you're not the priority, they are.
"It's made me even more motivated and driven to do things in my career that provide for them, and also to do things that hopefully my children will be proud of one day and maybe find inspiring."
What's been the scariest moment of your life?
"Kit was hospitalised at eight weeks old with bronchiolitis (a common lung infection which can affect children under the age of one). It was the first health scare we'd experienced with the children and it was terrifying. Izzy had a mother's instinct that it was serious when he developed an awful cough. It was the most dreadful moment when she rang and said, 'Harry I've called an ambulance, Kit's not breathing properly'. Thankfully after treatment and having oxygen, he recovered. I was frantic with worry."
How do you and Izzy share childcare?
"We try to do it as equally as we can with our random working schedules. When Kit was six months old, I looked after both kids for two months while Izzy was busy with her book. It gave me a real insight into how tough it is.
"Then there's the guilt that's part of the parenting package. You have to go out to work to provide for them, but leaving Lola at nursery for the first few weeks was heart-wrenching and tore me up. I'm so lucky Izzy's a great mum and much better with the tough love than me. I'm a complete pushover."
Would you like more children?
"It's not something we've ruled out but at the moment, with both of us working, we don't see how it's possible. If we had to go for fertility treatment again, like we did for Lola, of course we would because it was a tough but amazing experience with the perfect outcome. At the moment, though, we're happy as we are."
You've suffered with anxiety in the past. How do you look after your wellbeing now?
"Luckily, anxiety hasn't been an issue for me for several years now, but I'm conscientious about looking after my mental health. It's just simple things - I don't drink alcohol and obviously I stopped taking drugs many years ago.
"Working out is a form of meditation for me - it has so many benefits. It's something which makes me feel more positive, so I make better decisions and choices throughout the day, like going to bed on time, eating well, all things which have a huge impact on your mental health."
Harry Judd has partnered with WaterWipes on #ThisIsParenthood, a project that aims to encourage more open and honest conversations about parenthood across the globe. Visit waterwipes.com/uk/en/this-is-parenthood