Hi Anita, tell us about what we can expect from Britain’s Best Parent?
Britain’s Best Parent? is a new series that brings 12 sets of parents, all with really distinct styles of parenting into a studio – three at a time – and they all get an opportunity to parent each other’s children and talk about why they choose to do things the way they do. The studio audience then vote for their favourite parenting style and then in the final episode, we have the four front runners from each week go head to head. It's hopefully come at the perfect time – we all need a new TV show to get our teeth into, and every single person has an opinion or thought on parenting, whether or not you're a parent.
We will be seeing 12 different styles of parenting showcased across the series. Did you have preconceived ideas about some of them?
Yes, I think we all do, don't we? If I just looked at the list of the parenting styles – genderfluid, parent-centric, structured chaos, pushy parents - all those words make you think of something. The thing about parenting is that it’s so nuanced, there are so many different ways of doing it. Nobody’s wrong, they’ve all got great kids. It’s just really interesting to see how people go about bringing up well-rounded human beings that are able to function in society.
Do you think we’re all guilty of judging parents, whether or not we have children ourselves?
Yes! Absolutely. I try not to be too judgmental because I don’t have kids. Also, I’m godmother and aunt and surrounded by children. For me it’s totally up to the individual about how to bring up their children, no one else. My dad is hilarious – he’s definitely a father of his generation i.e. never changed a single nappy – and he now feels he’s perfectly placed to give my brother advice of parenting, which we all find very amusing.
Do you think the perfect parenting philosophy exists?
No, I don’t think so. How can it? Everyone is just trying to figure it out and I think there are some brilliant, brilliant parents out there. Love is probably key, a lot of love. That's probably for me a winning parenting philosophy. Love and bribery.
You’ve spoken previously about your own childhood and your ‘really cool’ parents. Do you think they had parenting nailed?
No, no, absolutely not! They did so many things that were just bonkers and completely wrong but somehow, we muddled through it and they've got two relatively well formed children out of it. If you asked them, they'd say the same. If they could go back and do things differently, I’m sure my mum would say she would. But they gave me and my brother the best start they could given their circumstances.
Do you have a childhood memory when you were particularly mischievous or even naughty? How did your parents react?
I was naughty all the time and definitely mischievous. I used to get told off quite a bit. Just fear of the Father. I was terrified of my dad when I was a kid. But that was my mum’s way of making us do things – ‘wait till your father gets home!’
I was quite a messy teenager, classic messy teenage bedroom, I never tidied it. One day I came home, and my father had put everything from my bedroom including my homework, my school uniform, everything that was in my room, into black bin bags and put them all in the garden. He then said whatever you need, you better get and that was basically my punishment for never tidying it!
Do you have nieces/nephews/godchildren you regularly look after? How do you keep them entertained?
Oh, it’s easy when you’re fun. When you’re fun Auntie Anita you can do what you want! We do lots of dancing in my house – music, dancing, spinning around, movies, ice cream, sweets. I’m sending your children home high on E numbers! I’m not the one who has to put them to bed so it’s fine.
It was my husband’s 40th last week and we have goddaughters who live three streets away. They came and bought him biscuits and made a special birthday banner. It’s tough in lockdown though because I’m missing my niece. Although I get daily videos on WhatsApp.
Do you think women in the public eye face unfair questioning in terms of life choices? Men don’t get nearly as much scrutiny.
Oh completely. Of course, all the time. I think women are scrutinised to a completely different level to men. I think there are questions that women in the public eye – women generally – get asked all the time about their personal life that nobody would ever think to ask a man. So yes, definitely.
How is lockdown life treating you? What’s been keeping you busy?
I've been making a lot of curries. I’ve become that person who cooks on Instagram! But apparently people love it so, it's all good. I'm going to keep it up. Plus, all the other bits I put out on insta – beauty tips, my favourite small brands, life hacks. It's really hard for me – I know it's been really hard for everybody – but my job is to travel and I'm constantly on the road and I'm constantly going somewhere. I've always got a suitcase packed so, to be in one place has been a real shock. But also, it's been wonderful and a real lesson in just relaxing, being philosophical and remembering what the important things in life are. It's been a really good lesson and I'm really enjoying myself. So far, so good actually.
You proved to be quite the baker on Celebrity Bake Off. Have you been baking in lockdown? What’s been your snack of choice?
I baked not just one but two birthday cakes for my husband last week. I made a Victoria Sponge and made my own strawberry jam to go in it. When you've got all the time in the world why not? And a Guinness and chocolate cake which was divine.
I'm snacking loads! We love Monster Munch in our house. I love Pickled Onion but find you just have one and you’re tasting it for the next week, so I’ll go for a Flaming Hot.
Why should people tune in to Britain’s Best Parent?
Apart from the fact we all need some good TV to get our teeth into, I think it'll be really, really fascinating. It's a subject matter we all have an opinion on, and I think people will really enjoy watching other people’s parenting styles. We’ve got some brilliant characters on there as well so it should make for a good national debate.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m working away at a few exciting things which I’ll tell you about when I can. I’m still filming Countryfile and The One Show, planning my next podcast series. I’ve got a couple of projects and as soon as lockdown is relaxed, I’ll be off filming for BBC Two so watch this space. But in the meantime, lots of curry!
Britain’s Best Parent? starts on Thursday 28th May at 8.05pm on Channel 4