Former party girl Peaches Geldof is now better known for her parenting debates than her bad behaviour. As she joins the M&B team as a new columnist, Editor-in-Chief Claire Irvin finds out what’s driving her mama metamorphosis
I have known Peaches Geldof since she was 14 when, as then-editor of fashion magazine ELLE girl, I hired her as our new columnist – a ballsy, stylish, warm poster girl for what I’d dubbed the SUSSED generation. And boy, did she deliver well. Every month’s column was brilliantly conceived and written – if always late! – and became a media event (I can only imagine the response if Twitter had existed then.)
Of course, she wasn’t perfect, but the readers saw through the media’s portrayal of her as a bratty, publicity-hungry party girl and embraced her as someone who was on their side, with many of the same issues: she was one of the sisterhood.
From party girl to mum
I never imagined that, 10 years later, she’d burst back onto our radars as a domesticated mum of two under two, beating the drum for attachment parenting and taking on the likes of Katie Hopkins in passionate parenting debates. Appearance-wise, little has changed – she is thinner and blonder, but still dressed in her signature vintage style, today a woollen shift dress, opaque tights and low ankle boots.
As they did when she was a teenager, the words tumble out one after the other with scant regard for breath or how others will perceive them. But now, she’s not talking about fashion, bands or teen angst, but babies. Yes, like all mums, Peaches can talk pretty much non-stop about motherhood. If you use any of Mother&Baby’s social media channels, you’ll probably have engaged with her at some point and, whether you agreed with her views or not, you’ll have been part of our readership’s huge response.
'Instagram is a community I can be part of, because I don’t have that thing of meeting up with other mums'
Being Peaches, the process of becoming our new columnist wasn’t entirely smooth and the night before this photo shoot, she created a media storm by inadvertently revealing the identities of two suspects in a paedophile case. I was concerned this might compromise the trust new mums have in Mother&Baby, however engaging they found our new columnist.
Older and wiser
But, in the discussions that followed, I discovered the first of many changes that Peaches had undergone in the intervening decade. She readily admitted she was wrong (she had seen the names on Twitter, and mistakenly understood this to mean they were already in the UK public domain). She immediately apologised, by tweet and in person. And she tried to explain herself, albeit a little defensively.
As a mum, she’d been horrified by the case and had been using social media to somehow make sense of it all. She couldn’t – who could? ‘Lesson learned,’ she told me, miserably. And, at this point, I recognised something that motherhood clearly hasn’t changed about Peaches – she, as with all of us, has had to learn a whole new skill in super-quick time.
Like all of us, she makes mistakes. Unlike most of us, she makes hers in the most public of ways, except this time it’s not just about her, it’s about her family, too. How she has her children. How she brings up her children. How she provides for her children…
Finding her style
Why then, I wondered, would she invite more by putting herself on social media, that most unforgiving of public forums? The answer is company. Motherhood can be a lonely place. Peaches is close to her three sisters, Fifi Trixibelle, 30, Pixie, 23, and Tiger Lily, 17, and sees them ‘all the time’, but admits her friends are in a totally different place to her right now, and says she’s found it difficult making new-mum friends. It’s why, she says, she’s so hooked on Instagram.
‘It’s a community I can be part of, because I don’t have that thing of meeting up with other mums.’ I know how upsetting it feels to be judged as a mum – as I’m sure you do, too – so no wonder Peaches can seem defensive. Especially when it’s causes that are close to her heart, like attachment parenting.
Peaches credits this for getting her through the tough times of her own childhood. She says her mother (late TV presenter Paula Yates) yearned to create a 1950s ideal of a perfect family and Nina, the person Paula chose as her girls’ nanny (now godmother to Peaches’ sons and who she calls her ‘surrogate mum’) espoused close contact parenting – what we know now as attachment parenting.
‘It was probably my really early years, where I was attachment parented, that saved me from losing it’
‘But, after my parents divorced, that all went and we had a really unstable upbringing,’ says Peaches, frankly. ‘It was probably my really early years, where I was attachment parented, that saved me from losing it.’
Tom’s upbringing (Peaches is married to musician Tom Cohen) was quite the opposite, and the couple moved to Kent to be closer to his parents. His mother Sue (who is on our shoot with her) continues attachment parenting their sons Astala and Phaedra if she looks after them when Peaches and Tom are working. ‘A lot of people use it as an excuse to smother their kids, but that’s not healthy. It’s about fostering a secure attachment – it’s really good for them to have a strong bond with other members of the family.
Parenting: the reality
‘If I didn’t have Sue to help me out, it might have been too much. There’s been times I’ve cried with exhaustion, when they’re both screaming, and I’ve just had to sit down, breathe and be like, “This is hard.” You have no time for yourself, even on the toilet – you have a baby sitting on your lap while you’re having a poo, eating a sandwich at the same time. That’s what being a mum is. It’s not easy. It can be stressful, but it’s the most rewarding thing you will do.’
And there we are, back to the babies, because there’s so much to say about them. From balancing healthy eating (Peaches can rattle off the vitamin and mineral content of most fruit and veg, and is full of ideas for easy ways to keep kids healthy) with giving them treats. She’s learned the hard way about sharing said treats too publically. When she posted a comedy picture of Phaedra covered in chocolate, she was lambasted. ‘As if I do it all the time. Users were like, “Why don’t you give him a rice cake?” But he’s going to want chocolate more. You have to have that happy balance.’
The feeding debate
Peaches reads A LOT and can pretty much quote on any parenting issue, but is also startlingly naive about some things. She didn’t plan her two boys to be so close in age – she just ‘didn’t realise’ you could get pregnant while breastfeeding. The breastfeeding, it turns out, didn’t last long anyway. She had to give up when a thyroid problem meant Astala wasn’t getting enough milk, and has come under fire from attachment parenting purists since admitting this. ‘I hate the breast versus bottle thing. Obviously, breast is best, but it should be more about whatever is right for you and your baby.’
‘I don’t live off my dad. I never have'
And, while facing criticism is something she has grown used to since she was a teenager, it hasn’t become any easier to take, particularly now she’s a mum. ‘People are always like, “It must be easy raising kids when you live off your dad,”’ she says, raising her eyes skywards. ‘I don’t live off him. I never have. When I was a kid, I never had pocket money. He was like, “You have to earn your own money.” Before ELLE girl, I had a column in The Telegraph and, when I started to earn £500 a week, I just spent all of it. But that taught me the value of money and since 18, I’ve saved.’
Highs and lows
When Phaedra arrived, Tom’s band S.C.U.M had split just on the verge of a big signing. Peaches describes Tom’s devastation, combined with two babies and her assuming the role of breadwinner, as ‘a difficult time in our marriage’, something that can’t have been helped by co-sleeping (the boys have their own beds, but mostly sleep with Peaches and Tom). ‘Parenting doesn’t end at night,’ she says, earnestly. ‘But I also understand that it’s not going to work for everyone. The thing is, it’s not forever. They are only babies for such a short time.
‘Since I’ve had the boys, I don’t think of the world as a negative place any more. I just have so much love. And, through my love for them, I’ve been reborn into a better, more understanding, more patient person – I feel like an adult.’