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Inspiring Mums: Sam Walker

Inspiring Mums: Sam Walker

Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 19:04

Sam Walker is a broadcaster who has worked across the commercial radio world and also the BBC. She currently presents on BBC Radio 5Live and BBC Radio Manchester.  She also produces and presents the podcast What Goes On Here and runs the coaching and representation company What Goes On Media.

She is married to David, a data scientist and mum to two girls Lyla, 9 and Britta, 5

You are super busy. How do you fit it all in?

There are times I really don’t. Much of my life I feel I’m playing catch up – either with work, house work or parenting. My house is a tip! My friend though says I work on “Sam minutes” I am very efficient with my time – I don’t put things off, which can really annoy my family when I decide to start a DIY project at 8pm.

Is there such a thing as an average day for you? And what does it consist of?

Yes and no – every school day morning starts with usual debacle: dressed/breakfast/hair brush (my girls both have very long hair) / shouting / shoe-losing /crying (usually me)/mad dash to car/ return to house for lunchbox/more shouting …you know the score. 

Then I get home and I plough through emails/ speak to clients / edit my podcast/put on washing for a couple of hours then usually I panic that’s its midday and I need to go to work. I co-produce as well as present my show on Radio Manchester so it’s very full on from the moment I arrive.  I’m off air at six – home by 6.45, then it’s reading / homework / yelling to tidy rooms-the usual bedtime routine.  The evenings I usually spend picking up shoes from around the house and doing business admin.  I often do a second radio programme in a day for 5 Live, so then it’s all bets off for exhaustion!

I also work on Sundays and have to be up at 3.30am – but it’s never hard to get an early night on Saturday night – although it’s not very rock and roll.

How would you describe your parenting style?

I would say I’m definitely tough but very loving.  My girls are still little so it’s that dreamy stage when they just want to cuddle all the time and say things like “I will never want to live anywhere else but with you” which is at once both delicious and terrifying.

I’m very good at setting rules and boundaries and then promptly forgetting to stick to them. We muddle through together.  We’re very close and I really hope that doesn’t change as they grow.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a parent?

That every child is different – that the advice books simply don’t and can’t work for every child. I try to parent both my girls in the same way but they react so differently to the same advice / bribes/ threats (!) that you’re constantly learning.

Also that your children WILL DRIVE YOU MAD. They will push you to a place of such anger and despair you can hardly breath.  The five seconds later fill you with such intense love you could faint. It’s a roller coaster.

What’s been the toughest period so far?

For me it was becoming a mum.

When we decided to try for a baby – I fell pregnant straight away and was over the moon  
Then at 13 weeks I had a miscarriage.

I’ll never forget going to hospital with horrendous stomach pains and the midwife asking me, “How far apart are your contractions?” 
And I thought, oh god – I’m in labour, but there won’t be a baby at the end of it.

Looking back, that was the first moment I realised that being a mother is never what you expect it to be. 

It took a few months to get pregnant again (in which I really struggled with depression), but then in Feb 2007 I fell pregnant with Lyla. I remember how nervous I was at the six week scan, but saw a heartbeat and a teeny baby, and in October she was born - healthy and beautiful.

When we decided to try for baby number two, again I fell pregnant immediately. At about five weeks I suddenly got really nervous that I would miscarry again – and so the great early pregnancy unit at  my local hospital gave me a scan and at six weeks I saw a teeny baby and a heartbeat and was euphoric. 

At about twelve weeks I was on air at work and had the tiniest drop of blood. I phoned the midwife who reassured me it was nothing, but as the evening went on I just got more and more scared. They gave me a scan the next day and I saw my little baby, who, according to the size charts, had died two days before. 

With my next pregnancy I got through three scans before the baby died – with the two after that I miscarried before the first scans.

I feel so much empathy with anyone going through any fertility issues and know that it does affect everyone differently but the feelings of grief, failure, self-loathing and desperation that I experienced were overwhelming at times.

In September 2010 I remember thinking I can’t do this anymore – it’s one last try and then . . well I didn’t know what the end of that sentence was, but that last chance hotel was our beautiful girl Britta.

 And until the moment that I held her and heard her cry I can honestly say I never ever thought she would arrive safely.

What’s the best thing about being a working mum?

I had never even been in a live radio studio until I was nearly 30.  So I’m proud to show my girls that if you work hard, you can do what you love doing and get paid for it.  My work teaches me so much about life – I hear so many incredible, inspiring, often heart-breaking stories and it gives me a wider view on the world and the people in it.  It makes me appreciate how lucky I am with my family.

How do you find time for your relationship?


It works best when we talk.  Even if it’s just snatched moments over loading the dishwasher or last thing at night. It’s hard to get out as childcare can be difficult to find and we’re often done in by the time Friday night comes around – but as the girls grow we’re finding it easier to have some time just for us.

Do you find time for yourself and if so how do you spend it?

Hahahahahahahahah x 1000.

I know I am absolutely not alone amongst mothers when I say I always put myself last.   I was reading an article about parenting the other day that said “If you don’t put yourself first you can’t possibly be the best parent you can be” I didn’t read that as “Be selfish” but understood it more like the advice on aircraft safety cards: “You must fit your own oxygen mask before helping others.”  I’m working on it.

Do you still have ambitions you are yet to achieve?

I really want to spend more time on my podcast What Goes On Here.  I feel so passionately that we constantly compare our lives to other people when we have no idea what they have gone through, or are indeed going through. We look at success with envy – perhaps often not aware of how they have got there.

Also - I want to write.  I’ve always wanted to write – whether an audio storytelling series, a novel, a screenplay, some short stories.  I don’t know.  I haven’t had the physical time or the headspace to sit down yet.

It’s one of the reasons we made a very big decision as a family and I’m leaving BBC Radio Manchester this month and taking some time out from 5Live.  As a family we’re going to live in New York and then Sydney.  We’ll be away for eleven weeks and we just want to have an adventure, create memories and be around each other.  I’ve worked six or seven days a week for more than ten years now and I realised that unless I jumped off that treadmill no one else was going to stop it.

I feel so lucky to have had the great opportunities I have had and I have grabbed them with both hands.  But there is more to life than work.  We saved up for years to get our garage fixed up and garden sorted then this summer we thought – when we’re looking back on our life, will we remember a garage or an adventure? So we’ve voted for the adventure.

If I think about what lies beyond those 11 weeks I get wobbly – but you have to just take a leap sometimes don’t you?

And when I get some time to sit down with my laptop and see what stories come…nothing may come.  Won’t that be a shocker?!

I’d like to be remembered for…

Being kind. Making those around me happy. Not being judgemental. Being brave and supportive.

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