As she prepares to get back behind the news desk, mum-of-two Kate Silverton tells Susannah Warren why family comes first.
We all know, as parents, you can’t have it all. But BBC newsreader Kate Silverton might just have cracked the hallowed work/life balance to which we all aspire. Having taken nearly two years off to have her second baby, she is due to return to our screens in January as the 6pm and 10pm Saturday news anchor. It’s an arrangement that leaves her free to be with her children, Clemency, four, and Wilbur, one, for the remainder of the week, as well as continue her charitable involvement and pursue her work in children’s education and development.
“I have just loved my time as a full-time mum,” says Kate. “Having had this much time off has allowed me to really assess how to
best balance my life.” Her new schedule, she says, will still involve a bit of a juggling act. But it’s one she’s looking forward to: “I am really excited. I love my work as a journalist and feel very privileged to do what I do.”
One thing she’s clear about, though, is that there’s no competition between her home and work lives.
“My priority is my family and I have faith that my work will follow when the time is absolutely right. I think one gets over the fear of losing in terms of one’s work by facing it head on and saying, ‘If I lose, I lose – my family has to come first.’”
It’s a realisation she attributes, in part, to being an older mother. “It is perhaps a little easier to put things into more context. I am lucky to feel fulfilled in my career, am relatively financially secure and don’t feel as though I am missing out or have anything left to prove.”
Her biggest buzz, she says, is simply walking Clemency to nursery with Wilbur and being there for her at the gate, hearing her news and taking her to ballet. “Don’t get me wrong,” she interjects, “I love my work, it’s just that maybe I feel I am able to take more time out than perhaps I would have done in my early 30s, and it’s why I am also still trying to keep my work to part time if I’m able.”
Even so, with so much at stake professionally it wasn’t easy for her when deciding whether to take time out after having her babies. “For any working woman who has invested so much of her life creating a successful career, there is always going to be this emotional tug of war,” she says. “But I have learned that it is possible to take proper time out and to simply be ‘present’ for my children.”
Her lightbulb moment came when Wilbur arrived: “I simply realised it was not possible for me to do everything as well as I wanted. And I wanted, above all, to be a mum to my children at an age when I felt they needed me more than I needed to work.”
Kate’s desire to be fully present is related to an earlier fear that she would not be able to have any children. After years of failed IVF treatment – and having had an ovary removed at 29 – Kate had all but given up hope, but then miraculously fell pregnant naturally with Clemency. She attributes this surprise turn of events to a number of things, not least to the fact that she was in Afghanistan when she went through her first round of IVF. “Looking back I cannot believe it was going to work when I was coming under mortar fire and reporting from the front line. I think I was in a bit of denial – wanting to pursue a career, but knowing I had a limited time to fall pregnant.”
Going through IVF was, Kate says, “tough beyond anything we had been through before,” (bearing in mind she has reported in war zones and her husband, Mike Heron, is a former Royal Marine). She encourages anyone to “explore every means of getting pregnant naturally before you embark on the process”.
And she advises starting with the obvious: “Do make sure you are making love at the right time of the month – it sounds crazy but I have spoken to a lot of women who think they are trying at the right time, but when they use ovulation sticks they find they are days out!”
Eager to share her experiences, Kate is actually in the process of starting a blog. “I am so lucky to have had access to so many talented and devoted experts, so I rather like the idea of putting all that information online in some form of hub, for free. I intend for it to be incredibly honest and ask advice of other parents as well as share things I have learned.”
She is passionate about children’s mental health and used her maternity leave to return to her studies in child psychology. “I’d like to see us collectively become more knowledgeable about the impact of our behaviour on our children’s brains,” she says. “So that we can learn to parent positively and ensure that our children can, in the future, manage stress better and cope with whatever life throws at them.”
As a patron of Tusk Trust, for which she works alongside the Duke of Cambridge, she is also committed to championing conservation issues and preserving our planet for future generations. “If we have a healthy society and collective psychology, then we create an empathic and caring society that is not afraid to look to the long term and see the damage we are causing. [These are] big issues, but I want to be able to look my children in the eye when they are adults and say, ‘I did my bit.’”
Of that I think we can be certain.