Jane Garvey says being a working mum made her a better parent: ‘I was more patient’
'How to juggle childcare and a career' sounds like a debate you might expect to hear on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
In the case of Jane Garvey, one of its much-loved former presenters, the answer is simple.
“I was a better parent precisely because I did do some work,” the 58 year old reveals to Kate Thornton on Yahoo UK's podcast White Wine Question Time. “I was much more patient.”
Garvey hosted Woman’s Hour for 13 years, presenting discussions aimed at women on topics such as health, education, culture and politics.
“When I was at Woman’s Hour, I only ever worked a three-day week,” she says. “I had days where I would interview the Prime Minister in the morning - okay, only two or three of those days - and then be at [school] pick-up at half past three.’
Garvey, who divorced TV presenter Adrian Chiles in 2009, credits her children’s lack of interest in her career for grounding her on those days.
“The kid comes out of school, and they're sweating, or they have somebody's glasses, wet their pants, and they had chips for lunch. And they got two wrong in their spelling test,” she recalls. “And you're, you're suddenly back in their world, and that is all that matters - what the hell you've done at work during that morning, no one gives a toss.”
Today, her two daughters are adults, and she has no regrets about that time she spent with them. “I was much more able to play in the pop-up post office on the days I wasn't working, because I knew that the next day I would be working” Garvey says. “I’m glad I did it.”
Listen to the full episode to hear Jane Garvey and Fi Glover discussing their careers and embarking on a new adventure in their 50s
As her career continues to rocket, Garvey remains “hopelessly relentlessly single”, and says family continues to be her bedrock. “I live with a really awful rescue cat and one child permanently, and the other one backwards and forwards to uni.”
She described her family as “a sort of slightly strange but curiously functional unit of slightly doollally females”. A recent joy was observing her 88-year-old mother communicating with her children in emojis. “She does a lot of smiling faces.”
“It is,” Garvey says, “a spectacularly dull life, with which I'm probably a bit too happy.”
It’s this mix of warmth, wit and relatability that wins Garvey so many millions of listeners. In 2017, she launched the award-winning podcast Fortunately… with Fi and Jane, with fellow journalist Fi Glover. The pair discuss everything from their menstrual cycles and HRT patches to the virtues of Taylor Swift. Sell-out live shows and a best-selling book, and 30 million downloads followed.
“We don't pretend to be anything that we're not,” Garvey says, explaining one reason for their success. “We’re honest. We make mistakes. We share them.”
Another reason is the pair’s journalistic integrity. In 2017, Garvey famously hit the headlines, alongside female colleagues, when she challenged the BBC over pay equality. “I honestly thought at that point, they cannot sack the presenter of Women’s Hour for making it clear that she thought women and men should be paid equally, because that's kind of what the BBC were - as it turned out - underpaying me to believe.”
Watch: Jane Garvey says being a working mum made her a better parent
Garvey received a welcome pay “revision”, but her reward was seeing the issue reach “a much bigger" audience. “You want the woman in Asda to be paid as much as the bloke in Asda," she says. "It’s just preposterous.”
Garvey told Thornton she may have remained at the BBC until she “was 70”. However, an unexpected invitation from Times Radio, to host a new afternoon radio show and podcast with Glover, means that, at 58, she is now embarking on an exciting new chapter. The approach was, she said, “hugely flattering”.
“This time of life tends to be associated with indecision and panic - certainly for me - and insecurity as well,” she says. “So to have someone come along and say, ‘You know, you two, you're actually rather good, and we think we could do something with you’, it does give you a massive boost, doesn’t it?”
As always, Garvey is thinking of the wider impact on other women. “I want women of our age, my age, to be encouraged by that.”