'She'll be grand' | 

Kathryn Thomas jokes that she has separation anxiety as first day of ‘big school’ looms

‘It’s just one of my favourite parts of the day. Having that hour and a half before everyone’s dressed and up and out and gone to childminders’

Kathryn Thomas is the new face of Lidl's Lupilu baby range

Kathryn with daughters Ellie and Grace

Kathryn is relishing the chaos of motherhood

Kathryn's big break on No Frontiers

Kathryn and husband Padraig

Kathryn hosting Operation Transformation

Sunday World

With the first day of ‘big school’ just around the corner, there are to be lots of tears and tanturms — and that’s just Kathryn Thomas.

The broadcaster and husband Padraig McLoughlin are steeling themselves to pack their eldest daughter, Ellie, off to primary school in just over a month.

And mum-of-two Kathryn jokes she’s got separation anxiety already.

“Ah sure, stop it,” she laughs. “Even when it was her last day in pre-school I made Padraig come with me because I just couldn’t [cope with] saying goodbye to the teacher and her leaving. I was a mess.

“We weren’t sure whether we were going to send her because her birthday’s in March, so she’s four-and-a-half — so we were like, ‘Will we, won’t we, will we, won’t we?’ Anyway, she’s going in September.

Kathryn with daughters Ellie and Grace

“She’s going to an Irish-speaking school; it’s in the same grounds as her pre-school is and we walk to school every morning, so it’s not going to be too much of a jump.

“She’ll be grand — they always say that it’s worse for the parents than the kids. I had to go off and get the little uniform, the tights and the shirts, and we went to a parent-teacher meeting there a month or two ago. It’s kind of surreal that we’re at that stage.”

Carlow woman Kathryn and Mayo native Padraig, who wed in Kilkea Castle in 2019, welcomed their second child, another little girl, called Grace last October.

And the 43-year-old reveals she’s cherishing the final few weeks of her unconventional maternity leave before returning to the airwaves next month — cereal spills and all.

“Every morning, it’s lovely,” tells Kathryn, who was back hosting RTÉ’s Operation Transformation just seven weeks after giving birth before resuming her leave.

“Padraig goes to work at around 7.30am — he’s director of food and beverage at Kildare Village. So everybody jumps into the bed, then he heads off, and I’m arsing around with bottles, breakfasts in bed and Weetabix flying all over the place.

“It’s just one of my favourite parts of the day. Having that hour and a half before everyone’s dressed and up and out and gone to childminders.”

Kathryn's big break on No Frontiers

After previously opening up about the couple’s struggle to get pregnant and the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, it fits that today the star is relishing every messy moment of motherhood at the family’s home in the Dublin suburb of Inchicore.

But doting Kathryn explains how she also feels a responsibility not to forget about the oh-so-familiar struggles being experienced by those for whom it’s still a dream while in her second baby bubble.

“Literally I would say that’s the most amount of DMs I get,” she reveals. “I get a huge amount of women contacting me about trying to get pregnant, fertility and what helped us — and that was the reason why I spoke as openly as I did about it.

“I think it’s really important that women support each other and we talk about it and have honest conversations about getting pregnant, being pregnant and afterwards.

“I think it’s important for women in the public eye to speak about it, and I think it’s OK for women to ask all these questions and get the help they need.

“There’s so many messages around our health, both mental and physical, becoming a mother, being a mother, having your baby and then looking after yourself afterwards. I think that postnatally a lot of us feel, especially in Ireland, the focus is on the baby and not the mother.

Kathryn and husband Padraig

“For example, I know so many women come to my retreats and they can’t run because they’ve lived with, say, stress incontinence for so many years — and that’s not necessarily the way it has to be or the way it should be.

“There’s so much help out there and I think it’s important that it’s talked about because motherhood is hard, and if you’re struggling yourself either physically or mentally on top of that, it can get out of control very quickly.”

Travel-mad Kathryn famously got her big break trotting the globe on RTÉ series No Frontiersback in 2001.

And it’s already in the genes as she more recently hit the road with ‘Ellie and the belly’ on the channel’s staycation spectacular No Place Like Home.

“It’s hard to believe it was that long ago,” says the radio and television presenter, admitting her suitcase is these days more like to be crammed with babygros and bottles than bikinis.

“We were in Greece recently and had a really nice time. And I’m heading to Portugal in a couple of weeks’ time, just me and the girls. That doesn’t faze me, but certainly what you look for now is convenience and ease.

“When we went to Greece, it was all about, ‘Do they have hotel buggies, do they have kids’ clubs, do they have cots?’ I was joking that the Ouzo was swapped for ice cream, the nightclubs for kids’ clubs — so it’s a different world.

“At the same time, I’ve a friend who’s gone off with her husband and the two kids, one is four and one is two, and they’re overlanding across Africa for six weeks. I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet!

“[No Place Like Home] was amazing,” continues Kathryn, whose backpacking television debut previously took her to such far-flung destinations as Australia and Argentina. “Jeez, what an opportunity.

“The first year I did it with Ellie, she was only two, and then I did it when I was seven months pregnant and we had a ball. We could have all gone in a campervan again, but it was just really important that I had this summer with the kids, because even though it was great fun it’s still a lot of work.

“I don’t think for me travel is finished and if I can combine being a parent and travelling [then great]. I’m developing a few different ideas for RTÉ at the moment.”

Next taking place at Powerscourt Springs in Wicklow in October, the fitness fanatic founded her Pure Results wellness retreats in 2015, since adding online bump fit courses to help mums-to-be improve their strength.

And Operation Transformation host Kathryn explains how keeping fit and healthy has taken on even greater import since becoming a mother.

“There’s that phrase ‘your health is your wealth’,” she say. “I think the older you get, you see people getting sick, and friends’ parents who’ve got very limited mobility.

“I suppose for that reason, not for any other reason — just for longevity, I’m very aware that I have two very young girls. So for me it’s really important that I try and stay [fit], just for my head as well.

Kathryn Thomas hopeful for another season of Operation Transformation despite backlash

Kathryn Thomas 'so grateful' for fertility treatment that let her have second baby

Kathryn Thomas won't return to RTÉ's No Place Like Home this year

“Basically, I try and run three times a week. Then I just do a lot of my own strength training at home, and I have joined a pilates class as well. I wouldn’t be doing all that — I might do two runs and one strength training and one pilates class during the week.

“And then when I’m on holidays it all goes to pot,” she laughs.

“Do I love putting on the runners and going for a run? No. But do I love the feeling when I’m in it and the feeling that it gives me afterwards? Yes, and that always gets me out of the bed to go.”

Although no formal announcement has been made, she expects fitness phenomenonOperation Transformationto return early in 2023 — along with the usual ‘fat-shaming’ controversy that has dogged the long-running RTÉ series in recent years.

“It is frustrating and it’s disappointing because I think a lot of the negative voices around the show are actually coming from people who don’t watch it,” argues Kathryn.

Kathryn hosting Operation Transformation

“Everybody is entitled to say what they want to say, but I think in the world of social media which we live in now, there’s a lot of jumping on the bandwagon. At the end of the day, we are on air for as long as we are because people love the show, people watch the show and people get a lot out of it.

“Would the show that we did on season one, or that Gerry Ryan did on season one, stand up now? No, it wouldn’t because the world has changed, and the reason the show is still on air is because we’ve moved with the times.

“Equally, I think it’s important to say that we have a big problem with our health in this country. We have an obesity epidemic, childhood obesity is huge and unfortunately it’s not something that we can ignore, and it’s not something that the health system can afford to ignore.”

Meanwhile, the busy mum — who returns to radio next month — has been snapped up as the perfect brand ambassador for Lidl Ireland’s award-winning baby and toddler range, Lupilu.

And the second-time mum doesn’t have to dig to deep for her biggest advice to parents-to-be across the country and what she wishes she’s known four years ago.

“Just to take a chill pill,” she jokes. “I think when you’re a first-time parent, you’re in that zone where you think you’re the only person that this has ever happened to before.

“Y’know it’s just a slow [learning curve]. I think every mistake you make you learn something.

“Literally all I keeping saying now to anyone who minds the girls, whether it’s my mom or my sister, they’re going, ‘When is the nap and when is the food?, and I’m like, lookit, do whatever — just so long as the child’s alive it’s grand!”

Today's Headlines

More Irish Showbiz

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos