Sam Quek, ‘I'm not saying perfect parenting is bad…but there might be less mum guilt’

The Olympic Gold medal winner is calling for an end to mum guilt

Sam Quek and her kids Molly and Zac
(Image credit: aduro comm)

Olympic gold medallist Sam Quek is calling for an end to the dreaded 'mum guilt' as she reveals the real pressures 'perfect parenting' is having on motherhood.

The Morning Live presenter is a mum of two, to daughter Molly, two, and son Issac 'Zac', one, with property entrepreneur husband Tom Mairs.

She has opened up about mum guilt and how it can affect day-to-day parenting from finding things to do with the kids to throwing them a first birthday party, and this comes at a time when 95% of surveyed UK mums admit to feeling mum guilt on a daily basis.

Speaking to Goodto on behalf of Haliborange, Olympic Gold Medalist and former field hockey player, Sam Quek, explained the importance of sharing and celebrating non-perfect parenting, She said, "It’s so important people start posting about the little wins. Just because I didn't go down the Pumpkin Patch like all of Molly’s class did this weekend, doesn't make me a bad mum. I felt like a bad mum because Molly was talking about it when I picked her up from nursery yesterday but then I had to realise she’s had just as much fun in the park walking the dogs, kicking the leaves, and splashing in the puddles."

Sam is involved in the campaign which calls for parents to share their Parent Pride moments on social media using the hashtag #EndMumGuilt. 

Sam urged, "Let’s see a picture of you with no makeup and messy hair with the kids. A rainy day? Let's get the paint out and make dens and that’s just as exciting as a day out at the Pumpkin Patch or Soft Play and we need to see more of that. 

"We don’t want to see perfect parenting. It’s nice to be a perfect parent and have the teddy bear sandwiches but I ain't got time. I ain't getting a teddy bear stencil, I'm just going to cut the sandwich and give it to them. I’m not saying perfect parenting is bad but I'm hoping there would be less mum guilt because we’re all in this together. The research says 95% of us are feeling mum guilt. I take comfort in that it’s not just me."

And Sam has lifted the lid on many other relatable parenting experiences from how to get your child to sleep with the best baby sleep aid to her parenting style. Here she shares all.

How do you get your kids to sleep?

I am blessed with two sleepers, thankfully from about seven months but I have to make sure they don’t go to bed hungry and tiring them out before bed. They tend to have tea 6-6.30pm and when we finish tea they have about half an hour messing about and then the bedtime routine will start. I’d like to say weekdays are routine but you have odd nights when it is by nine or 10 pm when you get them to bed.

What food will they have before bed?

"Yesterday I had a bit of time in the afternoon so I made a full on baby chicken curry from scratch, getting onions in there, carrots blended raw veg, and cauliflower. Because I was away at the weekend, I got the whole mum's guilt of feeling I've got to make today a nice nutritious meal to catch up on the nutrition they missed out. But again that’s probably a load of rubbish and just for my comfort. 

Last night they ate pretty well, this campaign is about getting rid of the mum guilt and focusing on the positives. If they've had beans on toast on the Sunday night before bed then that’s just as good for them. They’ve got a full belly, they are happy and they're going to bed and actually, it’s seeing it as a parent positive - you’ve got them a nice warm meal, you’ve got them bathed and you’ve got them to bed."

What is the biggest lesson you've learnt with your kids sleep routine?

Life saving product that helps them with their sleep...

"Zac loves his sleep once he’s asleep whereas Molly, for her we realised she needed company in the room so we’ve got a little storyteller machine and she needs that on to fall asleep. Whereas Zac, we’ve tried everything. He’ll still give the same chat for about 10 minutes, then go "mummy, mummy, mummy" and then after 10 minutes he’s fast asleep."

Do you ever let them sleep in your bed?

Explain why/why not...

"When they could go into their own room we literally stuck with it as much as we could. Obviously there are those nights when you feel really guilty because they’re crying. Or as a mum you know what is a real cry and what is just a bit of a cry for the sake of it with the tears turned on, so that’s how I got away with it. But you go back to the mum guilt and then you have to flip it into parenting - I personally think they sleep better in their own bed. 

"Molly last night, because I hadn’t seen her all weekend, she said 'I want mummy snuggles and I want to sleep in mummy’s bed', so I gave her snuggles and we watched a little bit of Old McDonald and I told her it was time for bed and she was like “NO” and I said I’ll give you a mummy story and you go to bed and she said “OK”. And that’s a mum pride moment.

"I can feel guilty because also I think one night wouldn’t hurt, they grow up so quick but I have to look at it in the long term and I’m knackered as well and I’m thinking I’ve got all this stuff to do, so if she’s in my bed it’s going to disrupt me and my husband."

"Having me time, and if I don’t have that, that affects me and that will affect the kids. I like to be out and about doing things which makes me a better mum and a better wife."

Sam Quek and Timur Miroshnychenko hosting Eurovision 2023

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do you juggle work with being a mum?

"My husband's incredibly supportive, he’s amazing and my family is pretty local but it’s like every other mum probably, there’s a lot of balls to juggle. I think every so often you will drop one and it’s not feeling bad it’s going 'OK, it happens what are we going to do to fix it?' I definitely dropped a few balls in the past and you feel terrible. 

"And going back to mum guilt, I just get to a point where I have to manage myself before I get to the point of dropping a ball. Because I am busy body, I like to be hands on and I probably don't have to be as busy as I am because my husband is fully capable. 

"At the weekend I was up until 1.30am, I couldn't sleep and I had to get the train from Liverpool at 7am but the mum guilt, and the 'I cannot leave the house because my kids will suffer because I’m such a bad parent' in me made sure the fridge was full, the kitchen was clean, everything had been hoovered, bedding washed, dried, folded, clothes out for the weekend for the kids. And my husband’s like ‘what are you doing? Go to bed, I can do it myself”. So it’s probably more for me than the kids but again, you have to turn it into a positive, which is why I'm proud and keen to be part of this campaign, let’s talk about parent pride and the moments of our little wins."

Are your kids picky eaters?

....and what’s your solution?

"They’re a year and nine days apart so Molly’s always been a little bit ahead and Zac is wanting to keep up with Molly. She’s potty trained now but he will sit on the potty and do his nappy on the potty, so he’s always following - whether it's actions or words. In that respect with the food, Molly has never been a massively picky eater, she just gets on with it. But we’ve gone through the phases of 'I’m not going to eat that today mummy' but I just keep putting it in front of them. 

He didn’t want avocado on toast but I kept giving it to him and in the end he liked it. Molly was the same with peas, she’d say 'I don't want peas' so I’d say pick them out and put them on the side then. But for the kids, it’s all games. I say 'You’re not going to be big and strong' and then she ends up eating her peas. I can beat myself that my kids haven’t eaten broccoli or green veg in a week but if I managed to get some carrot or cauliflower down them that’s a win." 

Sam Quek and her kids Molly and Zac

(Image credit: Aduro comm)

How do you feel about the baby milestone pressures?

"That’s what we talk about when it comes to mum guilt, people are reading this and there are some people who will post 'Oh my child is already potty trained or my child is already doing this...' Stop beating yourself up thinking well I’m not hitting those milestones, my child doesn't do that or I've not even asked my child to do that - you can get mum guilt, especially with social media. 

"You feel a little bit embarrassed and definitely guilty and start thinking 'Oh God I need to do that' but no you don’t. 

"I got that (mum guilt) the other day with swim lessons, I was like oh my god my kids don’t know how to swim. They’re comfortable with floats in the water but I'm thinking her kids are now swimming and he’s two and Molly’s two-and-a-half, it’s endless."

Tell us about the best kids' party you've ever thrown...

Did you feel the pressure to go all out?

"Yes, I felt the pressure, it’s just more and more guilt. My kids have never had a birthday party, we’re getting them christened and we’re having a big party for them in March, so a second and third birthday. 

"It hit me hard, especially on their first birthdays, because I was like they’re not going to have the photographs when they’re older and my husband’s like ‘are you being serious? they don’t need photos to know they’ve had a good childhood'. 

"You see on social media all these celebs, flamboyant backdrops and balloons, cakes on stands and a little one year old like I’ve no idea what’s going on. It’s nice if you want to organise it but if you don’t it’s not an issue. We’re doing a massive christening birthday party so that will probably be the only one of that size until they’re like 18!"

How about taking your kids to birthday parties?

...and what's your thoughts on maximum gift spend?

"The party politics are real in nursery - they’re brutal. I found out two of Molly’s friends were invited to a birthday party and she wasn't and I was like urgh, it absolutely killed me. I was like, 'okay does Molly need to be more social?' So I went through all these questions and you’re like just relax, they’re only two. But from my point of view, you would just invite the whole class but you have to look at it from their perspective, it’s their party and maybe it can only accommodate 10 children and they’ve got cousins, brothers and sisters. That’s why it’s important to flip the switch.

"Some people think a more expensive flamboyant gift is because you mean more to that person but it’s not, it’s about the thought and just being there to enjoy it."

Do you party in front of your kids or drink alcohol?

"It’s more I just can’t be bothered. I wasn't a massive drinker beforehand, but with kids, you might think we’ve got the opportunity to stay out a bit late with them but at this age you think they’ll bend to change but they will just get tired and you’ll end up going home. 

"I still love a night out but it tends to be away from the kids. A glass of wine every so often of an evening but I don't party. You realise with your mates that everyone is so busy that it has to be booked three months in advance and then for that one night, which is once every six months we will go hard and have a good time." 

Sam Quek

(Image credit: Aduro comm)

What are your rules on screen time for your kids?

How do you keep them active?

"My husband and I have been pretty adamant about not having a phone or i-pad at the table and I don’t frown on people who do because sometimes there’s a time and a place and you just want quiet but we try hard not to do that. There are times we've got it out a few times but that’s been hard. 

"We also try to sit down at dinner time but again, most of the time I’ve got the TV on in the kitchen because i’m trying to tidy, feed the dogs and put the washing on because everyone’s been out and busy. So at home the TV’s always on in the background but if we’re going out or sitting all down together at the table which is quite rare sometimes in the week, we try not to have screen time and try to get them out and about. 

"They’re going through that phase of climbing on everything and we make dens. If you got them to eat their dinner, albeit with the TV on in the background it’s a win!"

What kind of parent are you?

Tell us about your parenting style...

"I take each day as it comes, I'm very easy going, quite understandable. I’m very patient but there’s times when I’m sensory overload - the dog’s barking, Zac’s crying, well not really crying, crying for the sake of it, Molly’s going 'mummy, mummy', and the doorbell goes, there’s a man at the door and I shout 'STOP!' And everyone goes [silent] that happens few and far between. 

"When one of them gets upset, I want to know why they’re upset, I’m very calm and come down to their level. And I’m probably a big kid myself, I love Soft Play just as much, and Top Cat and I’m up for a baby disco as much as they are, I'm dragging them onto the dance floor. Both Tom and I end up being silly with them."

Who's the strictest, you or Tom and why?

"Probably me, I think the kids can probably get around Tom a bit easier. If Molly hits Zac I’ll say 'Go say sorry' and I’ll not back down until she says sorry, so I just say 'when you’re ready Molly'. Last night it took 20 minutes just before bath time she was laying there doing her own thing, and I said 'No, no when you're ready' and I just kept reminding her. And she’ll go, 'I'm ready' and she’ll come and say sorry. 

"Whereas Tom is like I'll give you some chocolate if you say sorry. I think we’re both quite strict but not in a harsh way. You can read the situation when you have to be strict or when you just have to give them a hug." 

Do your kids have sibling rivalry?

How do they know that enough is enough?

"I dont think it's a rivalry, it's just I want that toy because they’ve got that toy. Molly mothers Zac a lot but she’ll also right hook him a lot. And same with Zac really. Zac’s just dead chilled and happy go lucky but doesn’t like things being taken off him so we’re trying to do the whole sharing situation but they’re still so young.

"When less is said. I go 'RIGHT, THAT'S IT", the telly goes off or I put all the toys back in the box." 

What age do you feel is right for them to have their first girlfriend/boyfriend?

"Oh God, if you asked my husband that, he’d probably say for Molly, 30. It’s all different now from when we were younger. I think I had my first one when I was 14, I think it depends, I’ve got a twin brother so I've always had a lot of male friends so that was never a priority of mine. So I'm hoping with mine being a year and nine days apart they’ll have a similar relationship with boys and girls. I’ve never even thought about it, let's say 16, or after exams, 18."

How did your relationship change after kids?

...and what’s your secret to maintaining it?

"When Zac was born that was the toughest six months of our relationship, with the lack of sleep and juggling the newborn and with Molly still being only one and then we learnt actually as long as both of us weren't extremely tired we’d make it work. One could account for the other but ultimately it comes down to communication, the day we stopped communicating and being honest about how we’re feeling, if we’re struggling, if we’re doing well, that’s when we hit a few issues. 

"Tensions start to go and you start going at each other when you’re tired, or stressed and I think when you express that feeling to your partner they have understanding and more tolerance for your go-to behaviour. For us it's communicating and staying friends that comes after. We just make sure we make time for ourselves, it doesn’t feel like we do but kids in bed, watching a football match together or watching a TV series or we play on the PlayStation together."

Have you ever caught yourself repeating something your parents said to you?

What was it and how did you feel?

"'This isn’t Blackpool illuminations with all the lights on', is one and there’s a little saying my mum used to say ‘All the money in the world, and fifty pence’ So we’ve started doing that with Molly. So she goes, 'I love you all the money in the world and fifty pence.' I hear myself in Molly, because they pick up the language. (She'll say) 'Look at me mummy, excuse me Zac, don’t speak to mummy like that', with a little finger and everything."

What is one of your biggest daily parenting wins?

"For me it’s food and activity...getting them out and about and meeting people, that’s my parent pride. If they’ve got clean clothes on every day that’s a massive parent pride for me, they go through two or three outfits a day. 

"It was one of those mornings where there was poop everywhere, we had a toilet accident, then the dog decided to poo, then I cleaned up the poo and then Zac goes for the water bowl - trying to get out of the door on time is impossible and I wrote a little post about it here’s what’s happened but my blow dry was still in tact. Win-win. 

"Every day it’s happening to everyone and if we can be a bit more transparent it will be better for people’s well being because we can laugh about it. 

"It happens all the time, even in food situations, I can cook a homemade meal everyday of the week but if I go out and get the kids pizza and chips I’m thinking people are going to think I’m a bad mum because I’ve given them pizza and chips today do they think I'm doing it all the time? The Mum guilt is constant, it’s having the belief that you’re doing the best you can for that time of day."

How had mum guilt affected you up until the point you identified it?

"I still get mum's guilt. My husband reinforces it (not feeling guilty) a lot. He’s like, 'What are you talking about? I can do the shopping, put the clothes away, just stop it!' Again it’s always going to be there but when I'm on the train, it allows me to give myself a break in the head. It’s like having so many tabs open trying to address them all and some of them tabs don't even matter, they’re only there because you feel guilty about it. "

What's the best way you get together with other parents?

"My close friends we hardly see each other but we stay in touch. We went on a girls holiday when schools had broken up because two of them are teachers. We’d booked it on a drunken night at Christmas, we all suffer from mum guilt, everyone works full time and only see kids after school and weekends. You realise you never see your friends because any spare time they want to spend it with their family, kids and husbands quite rightly. So when the time comes you’ve not seen each other for months so that’s why we booked it, Majorca for three days see each other speak to each other. There’s never enough time for dinner to catch up with everyone and we’re going to make it an annual thing. Sometimes you need a bit of me time."

What are your tips for mums who want to put themselves first without feeling guilty?

"For me it's realising the best version of a mum my kids will get and the best version of a wife my husband will get is that I’m happy and my core needs are attended to. It’s different for everyone, mine is making sure I’m not too tired because I can get snappy, and realising when I need to have a nap. Drop the kids off at nursery and have a two hour power nap whereas before I’d feel massively guilty so I never let myself fall below a certain percent. Getting out and around people, you have to be happy, even if it means more time for you it will impact you and your kids time too."

CREDIT: 95% of UK mums admit to feeling mum guilt on a daily basis. Haliborange has teamed up with Olympic Gold Medalist, Sam Quek, to end mum guilt and focus instead on parent pride. Join the pledge by sharing your ‘Parent Pride’ moments on social media, using the hashtag #EndMumGuilt and tagging @haliborangeuk

Meanwhile, in other family news, this half-term you might be wondering where do kids eat free near me?, or want to know what the six most popular Halloween baby names are or what's best Yoto vs Tonie?

Selina Maycock
Senior Entertainment Writer

Selina is currently a Senior Entertainment Writer for, formerly Senior Entertainment writer for Woman&Home, and My Imperfect Life and has more than 16 years of experience in newspapers, magazines and online. She currently writes a mix of Entertainment news - including celebrity births, weddings and reality show line-ups including Strictly, Dancing On Ice and The Great British Bake Off, reporting the the latest news about the Royal kids Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet as well as Family news stories from baby names to store closures and product recall warnings. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.