Gemma Atkinson on burnout, body confidence, and keeping the spark alive with Gorka

Gemma Atkinson

by Lorna White |
Updated on

We spoke to actor, presenter and mum-of-two Gemma Atkinson on body confidence, returning to work and keeping the spark alive in her relationship with her Strictly Come Dancing fiancee, Gorka.

"I know that we're not going to have any more children"

As Gemma returns to work after having baby boy Thiago, she admits this time around is a lot more difficult. Not because she’s now juggling two children, but because she’s also coming to terms with the fact that she and Gorka aren’t planning to have any more children.

“When I was coming to the end of maternity leave with Mia, I kept thinking that hopefully, if I'm lucky enough, God willing, we'll have another baby. And I get to do this all again.”

Coming to terms with the idea that we’ll no longer have a newborn again can be difficult for any parent to overcome, but Gemma always strives to look for the positives in life.

“I'm trying to just think of the positives in the next phase in that, i’m going back to work, you get a little bit of your routine back again, yeah, you'll probably start to feel more like yourself again. And you're also teaching your kids the example of getting up and going to work – that's what I'm telling myself anyway, although I will miss the trashy daytime TV with Thiago on my knee.”

“You have to be wary of burnout”

Gemma Atkinson family

As a self-employed mum, Gemma admits she’s always a little worried about cutting back on work.

“I'm constantly in that mindset of, if I don't keep going with it, it will all stop. And the reality is it won't, but you have to be wary of burnout, you don't want to burn yourself out. Some people live to work and some people work to live and you have to figure out which one it is and which one's important to you. I think especially when you have children, they become the priority.”

Since welcoming a second baby, Gemma has come to the realisation of how valuable time truly is, and she often has to remind herself of that when it comes to maintaining a healthy work life balance.

“Time is the most expensive currency because you're never gonna get it back. Once it's gone, it's gone. The work will be there. But it is hard I think especially for women because you’re juggling with trying to have a career, trying to look half decent, take your vitamins, go to the gym, and you do it all on very little energy because you burned yourself out. So I think self care is very, very vital and necessary.”

Gemma and Gorka: Life Behind the Lens

One area of work that has been taking a lot of both Gemma and Gorka’s time recently is filming the second series of their reality series, Gemma and Gorka: Life Behind the Lens.

“It was easier this time as in we knew what to expect in terms of the crew and the hours, but obviously it was a harder in that we had Thiago on board this time.” Gemma recalls.

The first series was filmed when Gemma was pregnant with Thiago whereas now, they’ve got two little ones to contend with as little Mia adapts to life with a younger sibling.

“I've fallen in love with Mia all over and again watching her with Thiago. I'm always saying to her how proud I am of her because she's so amazing with him. She's very good at understanding that sometimes he needs a little bit more attention than her.”

To make sure Mia never feels left out, Gemma makes an effort to make Mia feel special every now and then. “The other day, Thiago had spent most of the morning with me, he was a bit clingy. And I took two little Haribo sweets into Mia on the sly. And I said ‘hey Thiago is not allowed these, this is only for the big kids.’

I tried to look at my body in a mechanical way

Gemma admits she noticed a real difference in her body between her two pregnancies, but her body never ceases to amaze her.

“I think it's so important for women to know the mechanics of their body when they're pregnant, and what a journey is actually going on. Rather than just looking at myself and think I'm three stone heavier, I've got cellulite, I've got stretch marks, I'm fat, I was thinking, my body's working and doing what it needs to do to grow my little boy.” Gemma says.

She also wants mums to stop putting pressure on themselves to return to their pre-pregnancy body, and appreciate what their body has been through.

“It's going to take time and it it needs to heal physically, you need to heal mentally, so I've just consistently made small changes, rather than kill myself in the gym and starve myself. It's hard to feel bad about your body if you're taking care of it.”

Being kinder to herself is another thing Gemma thinks we can all be better at. Particularly when it comes to your own body confidence.

“I would never say to Mia, ‘Oh, my God, look at the size of your bum. Are those stretch marks on your leg?’ I would never say that so I think why am I saying it to myself? It's ridiculous.”

“I sometimes sit back and think, gosh, we met on a dancing show. And we've created this beautiful little family.”

It’s all about patience when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship after having a baby, and according to Gemma, it’s all about the two-year rule.

“I read somewhere recently that most relationships end within the first two years after having children because it takes a woman two years for her body to chemically and emotionally go back to where it was. The whole nine months in nine months out was apparently not correct. Apparently, it's two years.”

With Gorka judging on Dancing with the Stars in Spain at the weekend, it’s the weekdays when they really make an effort to spend quality time together as a family, tag teaming on school runs and bath times. In all the chaos of modern family life, she sometimes has to remind herself of how they got here.

“I sometimes sit back and think, gosh, we met on a dancing show. And we've created this beautiful little family and this gorgeous house and lifestyle. And yes, some days can be stressful and tiring, like most families, but as a whole, you look at each other and I look at these two little people that we have and I think it's about just remembering that.”

And Gemma’s secret to keeping that spark alive? It’s all about keeping your expectations realistic.

“You don’t have to be in sexy underwear every night and he doesn’t have to be sweeping you off your feet every night. That's not realistic. But sitting together on the couch with a cup of tea, watching telly together, little things like that, for me, just keeps it real for us both and keeps it normal. And you kind of appreciate what you've got together.”

If you don't want to be on a plane with kids, you should get a private jet

As a nervous flier herself, Gemma found the idea of regular flights to visit Gorka’s family in spain a little scary. Add two little ones to the mix, and things can get rather stressful, but luckily, Mia and Thiago are very well behaved when it comes to flying.

To any parent who's scared, you have to do it. And if you don't want to be on a plane with kids, you should get a private jet. Because there's no other way around it. Kids need to make memories with the families. We need our family holidays.”

Gemma’s top tips are to take plenty of entertainment and to book the flight times around their sleep times.

“You have to do it because you don't want to look back and think, Oh, we missed out on a cracking holiday just in fear of upsetting someone.”

I never ever want to be without dogs

Gemma Atkinson dogs

As the president of blue collar, the animal sanctuary, Gemma is a life long dog lover and admits her family wouldn’t be complete without a dog but understands how huge the responsibility is.

“They make the house a home for me and I never ever want to be without dogs but Gorka often says to me, we have four kids. But once you've cracked that routine with a dog, they literally change your life in the best way and I wouldn't be without.”

You can watch Gemma and Gorka: Life Behind the Lens, 6 May on W at 8pm

Lorna White is the Senior Digital Writer for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website, specialising in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, Lorna brought her expertise to Mother&Baby in 2020. She has a keen interest in a range of topics from potty training and nutrition to baby names and early development and has a wide range of experienced medical experts and professionals at her fingertips. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two young sisters, dog walking and enjoying the outdoors with her family.

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