So a few days ago I spoke to Cherry Healey - that blonde chick off the tellybox that does documentaries about the kind of stuff we talk about. I'd planned to do a properly structured interview, with notes, and questions and answers, and a few digs about that breastfeeding documentary - but when my phone rang I was halfway through changing an Emergency Situation nappy and still heading towards my first coffee of the day - so I just talked at her (poor Cherry) - and then she talked at me, and then we talked at each other with increasing frequency, lots of laughing and a lot of words-you-can't-say-in-front-of-the-children.
I wasn't sure whether I'd like Cherry - some of her documentaries I love, some I was less sure about; the thing with making a documentary is that you have an opinion - and the thing with me is that I have OPINIONS - and I'm not great at hearing other peoples. It turned out that Cherry absolutely cracks me up and I really enjoyed speaking to her. Now I have her mobile number I'm pretty sure I'm going to send her inappropriate text messages when I'm drunk. I even think she might reply. She might have me charged with harassment - but she MIGHT reply.
The main thing we talked about was the difficulties of being a Mum and working - that people say you can't have it all; Cherry thinks that's 'so depressing' and that - evidenced by the modern women storming events like Cybermummy and Blogher conferences - women are changing the working structure and deciding for themselves what sacrifices to make, so that we really CAN have it all.
"Not all women want CEO success, multi millions, 5 handsome children who are all good at hockey - it all depends on what you want; if you want a happy family, enough money, somewhere comfortable to live - it IS doable, you CAN have it all. That's what women are proving now; we're told that we have to choose, either work OR have kids, or you can have both but it makes you want to kill yourself because whatever you're doing you feel guilty...it doesn't have to be so hard, let's change the system!"
Cherry is of the opinion - and I have to say, I do agree - that you can decide what you want and really HAVE it - you can, if you find the right thing, have the work/life balance you want - you just have to find that right thing. That's the hard bit, right? Well - maybe - but more and more women are finding it. This is something Cherry wants to explore in future documentaries - and she's very involved with events like this year's Cybermummy (where I didn't bump into her) and next year's Blogher (at which I plan to).
A big fan of women making their lives a success, Cherry loves to hear stories of entrepreneurial women, finding ways to make money around their lives - she herself loves that her work fits around her time with daughter Coco;
"I do miss her but I find it easier (to work) - I absolutely love being a mother but I enjoy it more because I get a break; I work three or four days a week so our time is delish - full time Mums, it's a lot of pressure, you've got to be entertaining all the time; I see full time Mums doing it, day in day out, and doing it with a smile on their face. Until I had a baby I'd never thought about it - but a Mum's patience, it's endless."
Speaking about Cybermummy Cherry says that women finding these new ways to work - the networking, the media, the blogging, the online businesses being run from the kitchens of busy Mums - is incredible; very modern and carving something new. Since I'm one of those Mums she's talking about, I have to agree - obviously ;-)
My friends - knowing I was going to speak to Cherry and the conversations we'd had about her Breastfeeding documentary - wondered whether I'd broach the topic - never one to steer clear of a good old debate, I did ask; the problem, I said, was that so many documentaries about breastfeeding show people who breastfeed to be weird or bizarre in some way - and I'd thought parts of her documentary came across that way too.
Cherry, to my surprise, agreed - but also pointed out that she thought, and said, that breastfeeding is something she's very 'pro' - speaking about the 'magical properties' of breastmilk. The journey they followed that Cherry loved the most was of the young Mum who struggled, but persevered and got help - and continued breastfeeding successfully for a long time.
The difficulty - having decided to make a documentary about breastfeeding - was that, because it's such a hugely emotive subject amongst mothers, very few people were willing to be included or interviewed on film. Previous documentaries had made people wary - so it limited what could be done in the time available.
Cherry, reflecting on that film, said she feels the topic is very emotive - that documentary is the one she's had the most negative feedback from, though she gets lots of feedback, positive and negative, on them all.
"Before each goes out I brace myself; I'm quite a sensitive person so I have to try not to be too receptive. Any opinion encourages debates - some responses will help, some won't. The thing I have to remind myself of is that I can't be responsible for people's reactions. Production isn't infallible - like any form of media the people involved are human beings. Some comments I get really hurt me - but I do try to reply to those; you can tell the difference when someone's really thought about their response and is making a valid point, and when someone's just being pissy. You'll always get that.
We can only film what we see; if it's a sensitive topic we always show the footage to the people involved before the show goes out - nobody has ever said no, or that it's an unfair representation. We just film what we see of people.
It is hard, though, to see people doing things sometimes. I can't tell them not to - all I can do is keep saying "are you sure, are you sure this is a good idea?" - my policy is that I can't assume I know better than them, that's so arrogant, sometimes people need to make mistakes. Unless you're qualified in that particular area you can't do anything. It's hard though, because I genuinely care about the people - so I do try to encourage them to think about things. I ask a lot of questions if I think it might be damaging."
I asked whether Cherry kept in touch with all the people she'd worked with. The answer is some; she said that she would love to do follow ups with a lot of them - even if it were only for her blog rather than the TV (you can find Cherry's blog here, by the way, if you aren't already a follower) but that she can't keep in touch with everyone;
"I couldn't work, be a Mum, be a friend and a daughter and keep in touch with everyone - you just form an organic relationship, but it would be fake of me to keep in touch with everyone - I'd just be doing it to try to look nice and say 'look how lovely I am' when I'm just normal. Some I keep in touch with, but I can't do it all."
After a lot more giggling, some squeely excitement about watching a helicopter take off from Kensington Palace as she romped her way through the park and wondering if it were Prince Wills, some chat about the benefits of exercise clearing your mind (and helping us to feel smug when we fit it in) Cherry had to end the call to get on a train to Eastbourne where she was meeting someone 'brilliant' to interview for her next documentary - another for BBC3, this time about losing your virginity; I've since managed to stalk Cherry on twitter (not that I'm addicted or anything) and hopefully she'll hold off on that restraining order for a while!
I said before I called her - "I'm not sure if I like her - she might be too like me" and I think I was right - but since I'm my own biggest fan, it worked out well! Cherry is hilarious, swears as much as I do and, behind the strong opinions and making good TV - which always involves some controversy and extremes - she's a normal Mum, finding the balance and hoping the good parts outweigh the occasional mistakes. I even understand That Breastfeeding Documentary!