It’s often been said a good sense of humour is necessary for being a parent.
For a growing band of mothers, they are taking that mantra a step further by using their experiences of parenthood as stand-up material.
This year’s Edinburgh Fringe line-up showcases a growing number of working mums who are finding plenty of laughs in trying to safely navigate the potential pitfalls of raising a child.
We speak to three comedians who are coming to the capital later this month about being a mum at the biggest and busiest festival in the world.
Tara Newton-Wordsworth: “I gave birth in March and was trying out stand-up material two weeks later”
Having had two children in the past two years, you would think the last thing Tara Newton-Wordsworth would want this summer is to make her Edinburgh Fringe debut.
But the 30-year-old comic and actor obviously thrives on pressure.
She is bringing stand-up show Motherhood to the Fringe, with 20-month-old toddler Charlie, five-month-old Sam and husband Will in tow.
“Will pointed out to me last year that I’d wanted to perform a show in Edinburgh for a long time, so when was I going to do it,” explained Tara.
“When I got pregnant again with Sam I thought I couldn’t do it. But I decided there would probably never be a better time, because there will always be something on as they get older, so I just decided to go for it.
“I gave birth to Sam in March and was trying out stand-up material on stage two weeks later.”
Personal trainer Will does much of his work online, so can come to Edinburgh along with Tara.
“I was offered a 6.30pm slot for my show,” she continued. “But I’ve gone for 3.30pm as it allows me to be there for dinner and bedtime. My husband will work from home in the mornings and evenings.
“It’s our first time doing this, so we’ll just have to find out as we go along.
“I directed a show at the Fringe one time and it was late nights and out drinking – a very different experience to what it will be this time.”
Returning to the stage so soon after giving birth was a good thing for Tara. “After my first son, I lost a sense of who I was for a while,” she continued.
“I was so overwhelmed by motherhood and the responsibility of it. It was only when I went back to stand-up and the compere said my name that I thought, ‘yeah, that’s me, I’m a person’.
“I realised it’s not about having a job, it’s about reconnecting with who you are.”
She added: “The show is essentially my experiences on motherhood. I grew up on an organic farm in Western Australia to hippy parents and was
home-schooled for five years, so I had a very different upbringing.
“I talk about bringing kids up in modern UK, as well as working through my own issues and being honest about the relentlessness of parenting.
“People appreciate the honesty.”
Motherhood: A Comedy, Just The Tonic, The Mash House, The Bottle Room (venue 288), Aug 1-25
Lucy Porter: “Sometimes my kids don’t even know I’m gone. I’m like a ninja”
When Lucy Porter announced her first pregnancy, she was told it would be career suicide.
Almost a decade on, the Fringe favourite is returning to Edinburgh with her 15th comedy hour – and her two children, Emily, eight, and seven-year-old John.
“I had people tell me it would be the death of my career, that I wouldn’t be able to do the gigs any more or put in the hours,” said Lucy, whose husband, Justin Edwards, is also a comedian and actor. “There was a certain amount of negativity, especially when I had another baby within 14 months.
“But I was inspired by Jenny Eclair, who has a wonderful daughter, and Jo Brand, who has two kids. They were my role models who’d done it and come out the other side.
“Now we are out the other side, too, and my kids love the festival. They love going to see shows and wandering around this place where everyone knows Mummy and Daddy.”
Lucy took two years off from working the Fringe – but she was still there the first year accompanying Justin, who had a show – and it was all change when she returned.
“The Fringe used to be a month of parties for me, but it’s a very different experience now,” she admitted.
“The baby years were tough. If both of us were each doing a show, we would be throwing a baby at each other across the Pleasance Courtyard, running around the hills of Edinburgh with a buggy trying to get to where we needed to be. I don’t necessarily recommend that.”
Lucy says that, while she doesn’t speak specifically about her children, her material can’t help but be influenced by motherhood.
“I don’t tell funny stories about them, because I fear they will be embarrassed when they get older, and in a couple of years they will be bigger than me and able to beat me up,” said the 46-year-old.
“But I do talk about the world they have brought me in to, like interacting with school mums, the PTA, Brownies and so on.”
She added: “It’s the same for all working parents, especially freelancers. It’s hard and is about making sacrifices.
“But being a stand-up is quite good because I can often put the kids to bed and I’m back in before they wake up. Sometimes they don’t even know I’m gone – I’m like a ninja!”
Lucy Porter: Be Prepared, Pleasance – Cabaret Bar, July 31-Aug 17
Josie Long: “Being nude in front of strangers makes everything different”
It’s been five years since Josie Long was last at the Fringe.
The former BBC New Comedy Award winner felt compelled to return this summer to tell everyone about motherhood.
The 37-year-old gave birth to her daughter 13 months ago and says she now sees the world from a different perspective.
“Because I’ve been doing shows for a long time, I felt I was in the same place in my life for a long time, too,” she explained.
“Towards the end, I felt like I was waiting for my life to move on and give me something new to talk about.
“I do feel different in a lot of ways since becoming a mum.
“I feel less inhibited physically and I feel more confident in talking about things. I think giving birth, being nude in front of strangers, makes everything feel different from that point on!
“The process of being pregnant and giving birth has blown my mind. I want to go on stage and tell people about it.”
Josie’s partner is fellow comedian Jonny Donahoe, who is also performing at the festival.
“He’s actually doing two shows a day, which seems excessive,” she laughed. “I think it’s going to be wake up, child care, show, bed, each day.
“I know at least one of the nights I’m going to say ‘it’s fine, I can go out and have a big night’, and for the next day or week afterwards I’ll be asking myself what I’ve done.”
Josie’s show, Tender, is “about how to welcome someone into the world while everyone is telling us it’s the end of the world”.
“That sounds a bit serious – it is funny,” she laughed. “I’m nervous about how it will all go, but I’m also looking forward to taking her to some of the kids’ shows and seeing things she has never seen.
“It will be a different experience from our usual Fringe one – we’ll be spending most of our time looking for the best soft play areas and slides – but we’re looking forward to it.”
Josie Long: Tender, The Stand, Aug 1-25