Parenthood brings tears, tantrums, chaos – and the kids can get messy too. At last, Giovanna Fletcher is the motherhood ‘guru’ we can all relate to.
With her honest approach to parenting – and how it doesn’t always live up to our rose-tinted expectations – Giovanna Fletcher has become something of a ‘mum guru’ to her 1.3 million Instagram fans. The 35-year-old, who is married to Tom Fletcher of pop band McFly, regularly posts the chaotic, frizzy-haired reality of raising their three boys (Buzz, five, Buddy, four, and Max, 18 months). And while she insists she’s a ‘guru who knows nothing about what she’s doing’, her success suggests otherwise. Her 2017 book Happy Mum, Happy Baby was a bestseller, and spawned the podcast series of the same name, on which she interviews celebrities such as Davina McCall and Amanda Holden about their experiences of motherhood.
Now Gi (as everyone calls her) is publishing her second book, Letters on Motherhood. What began as ‘scribbles’ documenting her pregnancy with Buzz evolved into a collection of heartfelt letters. Not only does she write to Tom – who she has been with since she was 13 – but to their sons, her mum and even her body.
Gi and Tom are famous for their online baby videos, which have had more than 30 million YouTube views. One, in 2018, showed the family making a snowman and decorating it with a scan to announce her pregnancy with Max. What it didn’t show was how Gi was really feeling. In her new book, she admits feeling ‘sick’ when she found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. ‘I showed the test to Tom and it’s telling that he was overjoyed but my reaction was to cry,’ she says. ‘I was so knackered. Tom and I had always said we’d like to have a third, but we were thinking maybe in a couple of years when, career-wise, I could take a step back from work. I was daunted.’
Although she and Tom now love having three children, Gi’s not tempted to try for a fourth. ‘Never say never – Max happening was the best thing ever – but physically I’m done.’
In person, Gi feels like a friend, so it’s no surprise that on her Happy Mum, Happy Baby tour she was besieged by emotional mums wanting to confess their darkest moments. ‘Statistics show that the leading cause of death in the first year of motherhood is suicide, so you think, “We’ve got to talk”,’ she says. ‘Only good can come out of people sharing experiences, so that they can understand their feelings are normal. For example, if I’d seen you two days ago I’d have said, “I am the worst mum ever”. We’d had a difficult night – the kids all cried. Then, when they’d gone to bed, I cried.’
Luckily Gi has her own ‘mum gang’ to support her, including her best friend, TV presenter Emma Willis, who she describes as ‘my McBusted wife’ after Emma’s husband Matt played in the hybrid band McBusted with Tom. The Fletchers are soon moving to a house close to Emma’s in Hertfordshire. Their older children (Emma has three aged ten, eight and three) already attend the same school. ‘They love it, says Gi. ‘Emma and I messaged each other recently, “You do realise we’re the boring ones, whereas Matt and Tom are the fun ones.”’
Gi also spent time with the Duchess of Cambridge in Birmingham last month when Kate launched her new initiative Five Big Questions, a UK-wide survey that aims to help improve early childhood. ‘It was an honour to be invited by the Duchess,’ says Gi, ‘then to spend more time with her a couple of weeks later in a nursery in London. It’s been incredible to watch her meeting parents and carers and hear her discuss the importance of early years – an area she’s clearly passionate about. It was a wonderful insight into her warmth and charm.’
But Gi is well aware of the fortunate position she and Tom are in now. Sadly, they both know the cruel reality of losing a much yearned-for baby, having had a miscarriage at six weeks before conceiving second son Buddy. ‘I’ve heard miscarriage referred to as the loneliest grief. It is. It’s so insular. So personal. So soul-crushing.’
Until recently, the couple relied on Tom’s parents (his dad’s a former factory worker, his mum worked with children with special needs) for childcare, but this year they hired a nanny. ‘We wanted Tom’s parents to live their own lives,’ says Gi. ‘But it is weird saying you have a nanny. If you come from a working-class background there’s a stigma attached to that word, which is ridiculous because most of us need childcare.’
Gi is the daughter of Mario Senior, an Italian café owner, and mum Kim, and grew up in Essex with her sister Giorgina and brother Mario, who you might have seen in The Only Way Is Essex. She met Tom when they were pupils at Sylvia Young Theatre School. They were ‘on and off’ until the age of 18 when they became an established couple. ‘We just seemed to fit.’
While McFly became superstars, touring the world, Gi ‘was at drama school pretending to be a penguin. But I wasn’t jealous of Tom,’ she says. ‘We were solid. I felt that if he’s going to cheat then he’ll cheat and worrying won’t help.’
Having married almost eight years ago, they’ve stuck together – weathering Tom’s self-confessed mental-health issues. ‘We’ve had our ups and downs, and of course we bicker, usually about who’s had the least sleep. But we know more about each other than we know about ourselves. It is hard right now. A friend recently said, “At the moment, with young children, you are at the toughest stage of your relationship.” There are elements of us clinging on to each other, riding that storm. Life’s good, but you have to fit in moments of celebration when it’s not just about work and children.’ With such a positive attitude, I predict that time will come sooner than she thinks.
Most used emoji? Laughing face
Your karaoke song? ‘I Will Survive’, though I haven’t done it for years
Favourite tipple? Red wine – it’s made with grapes so counts as one of my five a day
The last person you texted? The window cleaner
Love is… Blooming wonderful
Who’d play you in a film of your life? Helena Bonham Carter
Giovanna’s latest book Letters on Motherhood is published by Michael Joseph, price £16.99