Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn, better known as Scummy Mummies, are a comedy duo making light of the trials and tribulations of parenthood. Both South-East-London locals, they joined us for a chat at the Horniman Museum to tell us how they juggle comedy, children and family life...
Tell us about Scummy Mummies
Ellie: We do comedy for less than perfect parents… So that's all parents! We have a fortnightly podcast (the UK's number one parenting podcast on iTunes), a weekly blog and live comedy shows, which we perform at events like Camp Bestival. The shows are a mix of songs, sketches and stand-up, and we've toured all around the UK.
Helen: Our podcast has been really successful. We invite all types of people to come on as guests, from midwives and health visitors to comedians and writers like Sali Hughes, Kathy Lette, and Annabel Karmel. We usually record at Ellie's house in Forest Hill, with plenty of wine and cheese to help us along. Our humour is pretty silly and stupid, but so is parenting!
What tips would you give to women who want to the most of maternity leave?
Ellie: Go with the flow and don't worry about what you are or aren't doing. It doesn’t matter if you spend a whole day eating Hob Nobs and you don’t make it out of the house to a baby group - don't be hard on yourself.
Helen: Try to do something for you – enjoy that time. If you do something to keep you sane, that'll be better for you and make you a better mum. Stop worrying about where everyone else is at. And stop reading Doctor Google! The natural anxiety you have as a parent comes from love. You feel love like you've never felt it before and you want everything to be absolutely perfect for your baby. But have faith in yourself, and have a laugh. Enjoy wine!
Ellie: I also think it's important to take maternity leave one day at a time. Your needs and opinions can change throughout the first few days and months, and then again later on. When my first son was born, I wanted to do a Lilly Allen and move to the country, bake cakes, make bunting, and buy lots of Cath Kidston products! Then, after six months, I realised I wanted to start using my brain, and try writing again.
I would say be gentle with yourself and see how things play out. Lots of people talk about what you lose when you become a mum – but I like to think about what you gain. I discovered a part of my personality that I didn’t know about, and started doing comedy. I had a new-found confidence - it didn't matter if I failed at telling jokes, because I had a happy family to go back to, so I felt secure.
Then, when my second son Joe was born two months premature, I found myself drawing on a reserve of strength I never even knew I had.
When, how and why did you decide to change your career to suit your family?
Helen: I did stand-up before having kids, when I lived in Australia. Luckily after moving to the UK and after my second child, I met Ellie, and we formed our double act. We do our writing together - often one of us will type whilst the other jiggles Joe around.
Ellie: I originally worked as a video games journalist, which was great fun - I got to travel all over the world. But I couldn't keep doing that with a baby. So I had a go at comedy, which seemed like a great way to work while getting to go to the pub...
What other comedians make you laugh?
Helen: Loads! We love Kerry Godliman, Bridget Christie, and Holly Walsh, who performed at our show last year. At our Christmas show on 5 December we've got Caroline Mabey, who is also brilliant.
Are there any other mums out there you admire?
Helen: All mums are admirable! All parents are doing a really difficult job. Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 50 times a day can be VERY challenging.
Where do you like to hang out in London?
Helen: The Horniman is a favourite - it's a bit like a mental health institution for local mums! There are always loads of children, there but it's a place you can go for free when you need to get out the house.
Ellie: I love a good lunch… The Orchard in Brockley, The Dartmouth Arms, The Perry Vale and the All Inn One pub in Forest Hill are all great and child friendly. It's great to find somewhere with a kids' play area so they can run around and you can sink a few ciders. I remember thinking that, as a new mum, I didn't want to sit around drinking coffee, even though that's what you're supposed to do when you have a baby... I loved going to the pub, and I still do.
What’s next for Scummy Mummies?
Helen: This Saturday 5 December is a big day for us - we're hosting the East Dulwich Christmas Cracker on Lordship Lane, then in the evening, we're performing our final show of 2015 at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. It's going to be great - very festive, lots of laughs, and there's even a disco after! It's perfect for a Christmas mums' night out.
For those with under-ones, we're also doing a Christmas show at 3pm on Thursday 3 December at the Sparrowhawk pub in Crystal Palace.
Ellie: Plus, we just released the 60th episode of our podcast with the wonderful Kathy Lette. All the episodes are free to download via iTunes or http://www.scummymummies.com/.