F1 reporter and new mum Natalie Pinkham opens up about motherhood, her return to work and taking baby Wilf on tour.
Bubbly and animated, Natalie Pinkham is every bit as charismatic in person as she is on screen. At her home in Kew, the TV reporter happily chats to me about her morning spent doing an assault course for Sky Sports, and readily shares stories about her travels and work.
But, when we hear gurgling from upstairs, something in her shifts. As she returns with her seven-month-old son, Wilf, who is dressed in an adorable racing car hoodie, she is quieter, completely mesmerised by her son.
“I always knew I would love and bond with this little creature,” she says. “But it has blown me away just how much I have. I can’t remember life before him. I’ll probably start crying now if I talk about it too much. But the intensity is overwhelming. I love him so much.”
Wilf was born in January and, despite a very harrowing birth that put both her and her son’s life in danger, Natalie has taken to motherhood like a duck to water. “I absolutely love it. There’s nothing that I don’t love about it!” she smiles. “Obviously I’m knackered, but being exhausted is a small price to pay for being happy all of the time.”
A Formula 1 pit lane reporter for Sky Sports since 2011, Natalie has built an excellent reputation in the industry and beyond. Outside sport, she has recorded documentaries in orphanages and is a patron of multiple charities. But her success, she admits, is a result of a heavy focus on herself. “You go through a massive chunk of your life where it’s all about you,” she says. “Different things matter, different things are important. Then you have a baby and realise there isn’t time to be selfish anymore. It’s a really grounding, humbling experience. It makes you grow up properly.”
Nevertheless, work is still a big part of her life. She returned just six weeks after giving birth, a decision she made based on the sporadic nature of her work and the fact she lives just five minutes away from Sky’s studios.
“I could easily pop home to feed him. I was even pumping my boobs in the office!” she laughs. “Some of my friends face the dilemma of finding it heart-wrenching to leave their baby, but also missing work and adult interaction. I feel so lucky my job allows me to have both. So far, it’s been a great balance. Today, for example, he was with his nanny for three hours while I was filming and now I’m back. Both our parents are fantastic at helping out, too. It’s a real team effort.”
Formula One presenter Natalie’s role in the limelight means looking good is important, but she has nothing to worry about on that score. She is in enviable shape for someone who gave birth just eight months ago. I wonder how she has done it.
“Breastfeeding is amazing for getting rid of the baby weight. I’m a vegetarian and I’ve always eaten reasonably healthily but, primarily, it is because I married someone like Owain [her TV executive husband]. He gets me out in the garden doing fitness sessions, like boxing. He’ll say, ‘Right, 100 burpees now, Pinky!’ and he makes me do it.”
Work isn’t always five minutes up the road. Natalie’s job as a presenter on The F1 Show involves a worldwide tour from March to November to cover the 20 or so Grand Prix races in the calendar. Such a crazy schedule seems incompatible with caring for a new baby, but Natalie miraculously has managed to do both and has never gone a full day without seeing her son. Wherever she goes, Wilf goes too.
“So far, he has been to Marrakech, Spain, Monaco, Austria, Hungary, Italy and the Caribbean. And he is about to go to Singapore. My mum comes with me to the races and takes him off sightseeing into the city while I’m filming.”
Natalie’s decision to take Wilf on tour stems from her desire to shape him into the happiest and most carefree person he can be. “I just want him to experience as much as he can, and have the confidence to be bold enough to go out and do whatever he wants with his life. I took him down a zipwire the other day in the Caribbean. He loved it, whizzing along the seafront. My mum killed me!”
But it must be hard having a baby in tow, especially when you work in such a male-dominated industry? Not so, according to Natalie, who says that everyone in the “incredible F1 family” pulls together to help with the baby.
“When we fly to and from the races, someone will be carrying his buggy, someone will be carrying him and someone will be feeding him. On our last flight, four or five different people held him and he was just passed down the plane. I am also lucky to have a really supportive employer, which is very pro-family and supportive of women in the workplace,” she says.
Having ticked off eight different countries before he’s even nine months old, life for Wilf has been one long adventure so far. But, at home, Natalie insists that things are more relaxed. “I love it when we are all home and I am snuggled up with my boys in bed. Then we get up, go for a walk in Kew Gardens and have a delicious brunch at High Road House in Chiswick.”
For someone who seems to have the work-life balance sorted against the odds, I wonder if she has any advice for other new mums.
“My advice is don’t listen to advice. You are the only one who knows because [being a mum] is instinctive. Trust your instincts, they are rarely wrong.”
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