Anna Daly: 'If I was scored on my parenting I wouldn't get 100pc, I don't think anybody would'
TV3 star Anna Daly reveals how she's achieving her work-life balance and the joys of being a mum to two boys to Claire O'Mahony
In TV presenter Anna Daly's household, she's outnumbered by her menfolk. There's husband Ben and sons James, who is four years old, and Euan, who is two and a half. "There's a severe lack of pink and girlie toys and dolls and an overload of Monster trucks and all sorts of building blocks and Lego and boys stuff," she says. "It's a little bit messy and a little bit noisy but there's no shortage of fun if you can get over the messiness and the noise."
Dublin-born Anna has been a familiar face on Irish screens for several years, presenting TV3's breakfast show, Ireland AM for six and a half years, before embarking more recently on her current role as anchor on Saturday: AM and Sunday: AM, which Simon Delaney and Ivan Yates co-present.
But motherhood for her has surpassed all else in importance. "I certainly felt I'd achieved more than I ever did - forget education and college and everything. This was the biggest deal in the world. I was always worried about giving birth so I never felt as proud as I did bringing the baby home and thinking 'I did this!'"
Her boys are at an age when their personalities are changing all the time. "It's funny, you think you've got a very confident child on your hands and then you see him in another situation that you haven't seen him in before and you realise, ah janey, he's not as confident or he's a little more shy than I thought," she says. "They're experiencing circumstances for the first time and you get to see their reaction and sometimes they'll react in the total opposite way to what you would have thought."
As per many siblings with a similar age gap, youngest son Euan shadows older brother James. "Everything James does he tries to do, whether he can or he can't," she explains. "The only problem we have at the moment is that James answers for him. You have to remember that you need to do a bit of one-on-one time with the second child I suppose, to develop their language and their personality and their confidence."
Anna and her husband Ben take different roles when it comes to parenting the boys. "Maybe it's just a male voice but certainly he doesn't have to tell them to do things five times whereas I find myself sometimes repeating 'Did you brush your teeth? Did you brush your teeth? Will you brush your teeth?'. He seems to be able to say things once and they do it, which is really annoying," she laughs. "I do think it's all in the delivery, where I might have a more casual, friendly tone, whereas there's a sense of urgency in what he says, maybe. But they turn to him for fun, which really annoys me - I mean that with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek obviously. But they really do see Daddy as the fun character, the one who will throw them around the sitting room and have mess fights and I'm the one saying 'Don't do that! He could hop his head off the mantelpiece'. I'm anticipating accidents but having said that if there is an accident, I'm the one that they come to most of the time."
She describes herself as a practical and level-headed person about most things, but not necessarily when it comes to her sons.
"I wouldn't be a big worrier in life in general about myself or my job or my family," she says. "I wouldn't be one who got stressed over little things but there are times when Euan has banged his head and I'm thinking about it hours later whereas I'm sure Ben doesn't think about it after the event and is probably a little more rational in that sense. They're just so precious you just worry and it's just innate in women and in mothers, I think."
Two years ago, she was voted Woman's Way and Lidl's celebrity mother of the year, an accolade she was delighted to receive and it's become a bit of a running joke at home. "They say 'You're supposed to be mother of the year, what are you doing?' if I've been having a glass of wine," she laughs. She hopes that she's a kind and loving mum, who is there for the children and gets the balance right. "If I was to be scored on all of those things, I wouldn't be getting 100pc on everything. I don't think anybody really would but you strive to be as organised as possible and to give them enough love and attention and build their progress in terms of their learning, their words and their language. You just do your best," she says.
The TV presenter took six months maternity leave off for both babies. Her previous role on Ireland AM might have meant an early morning trip to London to do an interview, which sounds glamorous on paper but was tricky when there are two small children at home. She was also looking for a promotion and now her wish for a better work-life balance and career advancement have co-aligned perfectly with her new job. "I felt I was managing ok [with her children] but I wouldn't have done that forever. I needed a gear change. I really felt strongly about putting my own stamp on a show and having some input into the editorial, being able to make some suggestions," she says. "You have to be persistent and I was because it's a competitive industry and everyone has ideas and everyone wants to get to the next level."
She now has more free time at the beginning of the week to spend with the children and works Thursday and Friday in the newsroom and is on air Saturday and Sunday. The two weekend shows are different in tone: Saturday: AM, with co-presenter Simon Delaney, reflects the nature of people's Saturdays and the start of the weekend with food, fashion and advice, whereas Sunday's programme with Ivan Yates is newsy and slightly more serious. "The two personalities are a very good fit. I couldn't see Simon moving over to Sundays and I couldn't see Ivan getting what he wants from Saturday," says Anna.
While many of us would dread having to face being camera-ready on a weekend, for her it's simply part of the job.
"Regardless of how you're feeling, if you're having a fat day or not, you need to get it together and that's where hair and make-up comes in - thank God for them - and wardrobe. There's a bit of planning and plenty of make-up but I suppose that's television. We have to get a little bit of help to be the best version of ourselves, so to speak," she says. And personal agendas can never come into the equation when she's on air. "I'd never have a guest come in and not have read their story. I think that would be so rude," she says. "Regardless of whether I have a migraine or a period pain or whatever, it's kind of irrelevant. Deal with it later, park it for now and address the guest, who has been kind enough to come in on a Saturday or Sunday morning to fill our three-hour show. I suppose it's about respect to the guests as well as the people paying your salary."
She's often asked if she would like more siblings for James and Euan, so much so that she jokes she's paranoid that she's pregnant and everybody knows it except her. But she doesn't think that this will expand her family. "I have a handful to be honest. I've just been given this new show, which I've been looking for, for a while so I'm very grateful for this opportunity, I've two boys and it's very busy at home; I've got a column to write every week so I've enough on my plate right now."
* Anna anchors Saturday: AM and Sunday: AM on TV3 from 9am to midday. She is also an ambassador for Seat Ireland.