In the second season of our wellbeing podcast In a Good Place, HELLO!’s Creative Brand Ambassador Rosie Nixon talks to Charlotte Hawkins about the secrets to her positive mindset, and how she navigated the most emotionally challenging time of her life, after losing her father to Motor Neurone Disease in 2015, and giving birth to her daughter a month later.
Good Morning Britain and Classic FM presenter Charlotte made her TV debut on Meridian Tonight, before becoming part of the launch team for GMB alongside Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard in 2014, and competing in Strictly Come Dancing with dancer Brendan Cole three years later.
But her other big role in life is being a mother to her eight-year-old daughter Ella Rose, who she introduced on the pages of HELLO! with her husband Mark Herbert. Despite her hectic schedule, she still remains so positive, which is why Rosie was keen to have her In a Good Place. In the latest episode, the 48-year-old told Rosie how she keeps herself going amid the pressures of her career, and the key turning points in her life.
Here’s an excerpt…
Welcome Charlotte, so tell me, are you in a good place?
I am today, despite the fact I got up at 2:45 am for Good Morning Britain, which is always a bit of a shock to the system. You never get used to it, even after all the number of years that I’ve been doing it. I started on Good Morning Britain in 2014, but when I first started at [Sky’s breakfast show Sunrise], that was back in 2007, so I’ve had an awful lot of early mornings. Sometimes that can get in the way of feeling in the best place, I have to be honest.
[Waking up at] 2:45 has slightly blown my mind. How does that work with home life? How do you manage it?
We just get on with it really. I do have the same bedtime as my daughter [at eight or nine o’clock]. I will say to Ella Rose, it's time for you to go to bed now because I need to go to sleep, and that's worked out quite well because she knows that she has to settle down quickly. I'll either be going to sleep at the same time as her or I'll be upstairs, looking at stuff for the next day's show before I try to get to sleep.
When she was born, it meant that I could then get back and spend more time with her in the day, so I do like the fact that although my day can be over by the time other people are going into work, you get used to having that time to yourself.
How do you wind down in the evening, do you have a sort of routine?
I think it's just lovely when you’re all back together as a family, and you've got that time in the evening. That's the time when I think I can switch off. But I think in the news world, the trouble is that you never know when things are happening, so you can never completely switch off because you've got your phone pinging with all this breaking news. I’m always keeping half an eye out for what's going on, or watching the news, trying to wrestle the remote control over whatever Ella Rose wants to be watching at any given time.
Speaking of that, there is so much difficult news at the moment. How do you deal with that mentally? Does it get on top of you at times?
There are those stories that really hit home and quite often you're faced with sort of doom and gloom, serious, horrible, depressing, sad stories on a daily basis. Some days it does affect you more than others and there are stories [that are just heartbreaking, such as throughout the pandemic and the Grenfell Tower fire]…
Sometimes you do get particularly personally involved, [for me it’s] those stories that involve Motor Neurone Disease, which is what my dad had and died from. I recently interviewed the former Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Chris Johnson, who bravely spoke up about his diagnosis. You try and do a very professional interview and obviously, it's all about him, but I did get upset because I knew what they were going through and what lay ahead.
You mentioned how losing your dear dad in January 2015 and your daughter being born a month later was a reset moment in your life. Tell me about that time.
It really was the toughest time of my life because it was the worst time and the best time, separated by just one month. I hadn't gotten over the death of my dad, but when my baby was born, you obviously want to be in a great place mentally, so you think ‘I need to get myself together because I need to be there for her’. I don't really know how I did it, but I just tried to postpone my grief when I was pregnant, I felt so overwhelmed by sadness and I thought I don't want this to seep into her at all… It was just a huge roller coaster and it did take me a long time to get myself out of that.
How do you keep his memory alive now?
In all sorts of different ways; I think about him every day. He was such a huge figure in my life, he was the person you'd go to for advice, he was always so kind and considerate and he always saw something from both points of view. I really am grateful for the way that he bought me up to look at the world in that way, because I think as a journalist, it's about looking beyond what you're presented with and thinking, ‘That's one version of the story, but actually, let's think about what these people are going through or why they might be in this situation’. So, I think it's having that ability to look at things in a balanced way and to look at things from a different viewpoint.
He was super intelligent… and he loved bird watching, so a lot of the time I talk to Ella Rose about different birds and that's why she gets things like binoculars and bird books for Christmas, just to try and keep that love of nature alive as well.
You strike me as such a positive person. Do you ever struggle to think positively?
I'm not always in that place at all and I have to work to stay in that place and recognise if I'm veering too far away from it… I think for me, there's a huge power in however busy you are, even if you don't think you have the time, just stopping. Even if it's for a minute or two, just stopping, breathing deeply, taking that moment to centre yourself.
In an increasingly busy world, everyone's phones are pinging, they've got emails to answer, and I always look around and feel like I've got so much to do. I think sometimes when you feel that sense of being overwhelmed, it's just about taking a step back, because you can't just keep ploughing on and ploughing on, there will be consequences, whether it's your mental health or your physical health. Listen to the full episode below.