Rachel Riley has reflected on the past 12 months, and how she is looking forward to some precious time with her loved ones this Christmas. Before the Tier 4 restrictions were announced, the Countdown presenter exclusively opened up to HELLO! about her plans and how motherhood during lockdown has been somewhat trying at times.
The 34-year-old, who welcomed baby Maven on 15 December 2019 with husband Pasha Kovalev, revealed she was initially looking forward to celebrating the festivities at her mother's house before celebrating again in the New Year due to her husband's Russian heritage.
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Asked whether she will be incorporating any Russian traditions this year, Rachel shared: "We kind of got Christmas Day and then the Russian New Years - so [Maven's] got a bit of everything. It's just working out when Mave should get her present."
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At the start of the year, Rachel's mother-in-law was forced to spend lockdown at their home in London - and it seems she had a wonderful influence on the couple's little girl, who was able to pick up some of the language.
"Fortunately that was one of the [good things about lockdown]. She got to spend so much time with Mave," explained the doting mum. "It takes two days to travel from where she lives in the far East of Russia - she can't be here and risk it. But they do New Year - instead of celebrating on Christmas, they still celebrate with a Christmas tree - but they celebrate on New Years.
Rachel and husband Pasha Kovalev welcomed little Maven in December last year
"They have a huge table of celebration food, we've introduced Mave to some Russian food and she loves it so far - and we're vegan as well so we do the vegan version of mixed salads with beetroot and carrots and tofu. It's not too different from what we do at Christmas, it's just different food on a different day."
Rachel secretly tied the knot with Pasha, 40, in Las Vegas in June 2019, six months before they became first-time parents. There's no denying how much the new parents have been relishing every moment with their baby girl.
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"It's been gorgeous," gushed Rachel, when asked how it's been watching Pasha become a father. "My friends always said when you love someone and you see them with a child… he is just amazing with her.
"He's better with her than with me, I've got the secret weapon of boobs and he has to actually learn proper parenting. She loves him, he loves her. Even when looking at a picture of her, his face just lights up - it's gorgeous."
However, three months after little Maven's arrival, the UK went into lockdown and the couple had to adapt to a different way of living. Asked how they dealt with the change, Rachel divulged: "I've learnt to put my family first. I never had a child before and I was so used to running around like a mad person. I used to say no to new things and a lot of other stuff - obviously it has been a horrific time but we've had more family time then we probably would have ever had.
The couple tied the knot in June 2019
"Pasha has not been working because both of his shows have been postponed but it has just meant, as a family, we have had all this time together. I think it helps you focus. That is probably the most important thing. When things get a bit more normal, we have got to keep the balance."
She continued: "We've been so lucky as Maven is so tiny, she doesn't know any different. We have friends with toddlers and they've been driving them up the walls... You kind of perspective of what is going on everywhere else.
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"We're all really lucky that our immediate friends and loved ones have stayed safe. I have other friends who have lost family members. With all these things, it's a shame Maven hasn't had any interaction with any other kids. But eventually, she'll get the opportunity - you know, the bigger picture, priorities and stuff."
While the pair - who met on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2013 - have their hands full being new parents, what does the future hold for the young family? Quizzed on baby number two, Rachel replied: "Yeah, we definitely want another little person to have Maven be friends with. When that happens, that would be lovely."
The TV star is known for being the maths whizz on Channel 4's iconic game show, Countdown. She initially considered a career in marketing, before her mother encouraged her to audition for the daytime series.
The TV star is one of the celebrities taking part in the Very Important Breakfast Clubs
When Countdown's original 'human calculator' Carol Vorderman retired from her role in 2008 after 26 years, Channel 4 began searching for an unknown host to replace her. Rachel, then 22, beat 1,000 other applicants to win the coveted role as resident maths guru.
Nowadays, the TV star is keen to offer up her pearls of wisdom to the youth of today, often sharing fun online maths videos in a bid to inspire their fondness for the subject. She has teamed up with Amazon and free school meals charity Magic Breakfast to launch, Very Important Breakfast Clubs, where children at Magic Breakfast schools will be surprised with various celebrity teachers - including herself!
"I'm really keen to make maths and science really popular - especially for girls," she said. "I think having role models for children is a good thing. Often with maths, the stereotype is for an old man with a beard."
Rachel continued: "Having a child makes you realise, well, you are going to be bringing them up. You're going to try and give them values and hope what they will turn into and what they aspire to. You've just got to walk the walk of who you want them to be and what they stand for."
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