The famous mums who've turned down work to look after their kids

Helen Skelton quits her R5Live show and Sophie Winkleman turns down US jobs to be closer to her daughters – but they’re not the first showbiz mums to press pause on their careers

  • Helen Skelton announced her departure from her radio show on Sunday 
  • Read more: Sophie Winkleman turns down lucrative roles in the US to be near her daughters Maud, 10, and Isabella, seven: ‘You have to make compromises’

When TV and radio star Helen Skelton announced to fans that she was quitting her BBC Radio 5 Live Sunday morning show last weekend, she admitted that ‘the juggle is real’, referencing trying to balance being a single parent to three children and her successful broadcasting career.   

In an emotional farewell to listeners on Sunday as she explained she wanted to spend more of her weekend with her children, saying: ‘I am not alright about it but needs must. The juggle is real.’

The star, who split from the father of her three children, rugby star Richie Myler, last year, added that she wanted to be around to see her kids playing sports at the weekend, telling listeners that ‘there is an eight-year-old with a sideline who needs me’. 

Also this week, Peep Show star Sophie Winkleman, who’s married to Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince Michael of Kent, revealed she’s turned down offers from the US because she wants to stay close to her daughters Maud, 10, and Isabella, seven.

The couple had lived and worked in California, where Winkleman landed herself a recurring role in the hit sitcom starring Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men, for five years until 2015. 

In an emotional farewell to her BBC R5 Live listeners on Sunday, TV and radio star Helen Skelton explained why she was stepping down, saying: ‘I am not alright about it but needs must. The juggle is real.’ (Pictured with her three children last year)

Sophie Winkleman, best known as Big Suze in Channel 4 comedy Peep Show, is married to Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince Michael of Kent; she said this month that she’s turned down US roles to be closer to her two young daughters (Pictured at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2022)

‘After Two And A Half Men, I got some wonderful offers of work in America which I didn’t do because I couldn’t imagine just vanishing to another country for months,’ says Sophie, 43, the half-sister of Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman.

‘You have to make compromises in your career when you have a family. So I do jobs in Britain where I see them every week.’

Here FEMAIL looks at other famous mums on both sides of the pond who put glitzy careers on the backburner to put their children front and centre…

LOUISE – LEFT SHOWBIZ FOR NEARLY TWO DECADES

Pop star Louise, who was married to ex England footballer Jamie Redknapp, shunned the limelight in the early noughties to raise her two sons Charley and Beau

As one quarter of 90s girlband Eternal and, later, a successful solo star in her own right, Louise was at the height of her career when she ducked out the limelight to raise her sons. 

After marrying then Liverpool star Jamie Redknapp in 1998, the singer gave birth to the couple’s first son Charley, now 18, followed by Beau, now 14. While Redknapp’s post football career flourished, Louise stepped away from the limelight for two decades before making a return to fame as a Strictly Come Dancing contestant in 2016. 

The star, pictured on stage this summer, has reignited her career as a sons have got older

She told the White Wine Question Time podcast in March this year: ‘For a long time, I ticked all the boxes of being the ‘picture-perfect’ wife. The truth? For a lot of that time, I actually felt lonely, anxious, unimportant [and] unloved.’

The pop star, 48, and Redknapp, 49, announced they were splitting up after 19 years of marriage in 2017.

LIZ HURLEY – DIDN’T WORK FOR EIGHT YEARS AFTER SON DAMIAN WAS BORN

Elizabeth Hurley took an eight-year break while her son Damian, now 21, was young, saying: ‘I don’t regret it for a moment. I always put him first.’

In 2020, Liz Hurley told Us Weekly that juggling motherhood and a career had been ‘ludicrously hard’.

The actress and model, 58, raised son Damian, 21, – whom she shares with the late entrepreneur Steve Bing – said raising him whilst also maintaining her work was more difficult than she expected, saying: ‘It’s ludicrously hard to try and do. We all try. We all succeed in places, and we often feel like we failed in places.’

Speaking to Closer magazine about the early years of caring for Damian as a single parent, after she separated from Bing, she said she stopped working for nearly a decade to care for him. 

She said: ‘Looking after my son became my number one task, and it was a joy to have someone else on whom to focus.

‘I was 36 and had been worrying about myself for quite long enough. I stopped doing movies and TV for the first eight years of his life, and I don’t regret it for a moment. I always put him first.’   

EMILY BLUNT – CURRENTLY TAKING A CAREER BREAK TO BE WITH KIDS

Year off: Emily Blunt revealed during a recent interview that she’s taking an entire year off from acting to spend more time with her children

The 40-year-old actress shares two children – Hazel, 9, and Violet, 7 – with her husband John Krasinski, who celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary on Monday

Oppenheimer star Emily Blunt revealed during a recent interview that she’s taking an entire year off from acting, to spend more time with her family.

The 40-year-old actress shares two children – Hazel, 9, and Violet, 7 – with her husband John Krasinski, who celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary on Monday.

Blunt – who was spotted recently at the Paris premiere of her new film Oppenheimer – didn’t specify when the break started, though she told the Table for Two podcast that she’s taking her hiatus to spend more time with kids.

‘This year, I’m not working. I worked quite a bit last year and my oldest baby is nine, so we’re in the last year of single digits,’ Blunt explained. 

‘And I just feel [like] there are cornerstones to their day that are so important when they’re little,’ she clarified. 

‘And it’s, ‘Will you wake me up? Will you take me to school? Will you pick me up? Will you put me to bed?’ And I just need to be there for all of them for a good stretch. And I just felt that in my bones,’ she said.

KATE FERDINAND – LEFT TOWIE TO HELP RAISE STEP-KIDS 

Throwback: Kate shocked her fans in 2017 when she told them she would be leaving TOWIE and later revealed wanting to be a good step-mum was the reason (pictured in 2015) 

Then Kate Wright, now Kate Ferdinand, the former TOWIE star revealed in 2017 that she was quitting her reality TV career just as her romance with the former Manchester United star was hotting up.

She announced that she was taking an ‘extended break’ and later revealed it was because she wanted to prioritise her three step-children, Lorenz, Tate and Tia.

Ferdinand told The Times in 2020: ‘I just realised I couldn’t be a good stepmum and be on a TV show full of little disputes and arguments and be out of the house six days a week.

‘It wasn’t healthy for the children to read headlines about me.’ 

The ex reality star told The Times: ‘I just realised I couldn’t be a good stepmum and be on a TV show full of little disputes and arguments and be out of the house six days a week’

Close knit: She became stepmother to Lorenz, Tate and Tia after she married their father Rio in 2019

She became stepmother to Rio’s children after marrying the football pundit in Turkey in 2019. Their mother Rebecca Ellison tragically passed away after losing her battle with breast cancer in 2015.

She told the newspaper that the children’s grief was difficult for her to deal with: ‘I’ve had lots of counselling. I felt like I was taking on a lot of their grief.

‘I felt I was bottling everything up and trying to be perfect for the children. But the more I did that, I couldn’t be a good mum to them. I had so much going on in my head.’

JULIA ROBERTS – PRESSED PAUSE AND BECAME ‘A HOMEMAKER’

Julia Roberts pictured with her daughter back in 2013…the star told the New York Times while her children were young that she took a ‘great sense of pride’ in being ‘a homemaker’

The Pretty Woman star has released a string of films in recent years, but took a significant hiatus from Hollywood when her three children – twins Hazel and Phinneaus and son Henry – were young.

She told the New York Times that the logistics of raising children with husband Danny Moder simply saw her drift from the career that had propelled her to fame. 

As her children with husband Danny Moder have grown, the star has returned to acting roles: Roberts pictured in January 2023 at the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards in LA

On considering roles while her children were still young, she said: ‘It’s also the math equation of my husband’s work schedule and the kids’ school schedule and summer vacation. It’s not just, “Oh, I think I want to do this” – I have a sense of great pride in being home with my family and considering myself a homemaker’.

As her children have grown, she’s returned to the big screen though, something that she said was important for her. ‘I can be creative and that it’s meaningful to me — so meaningful that for periods of time I will choose to focus on that almost more than my family, which has been hard for me to come to terms with.’

CAMERON DIAZ – CONSIDERED RETIRING FROM ACTING AFTER WELCOMING BABY DAUGHTER 
In December 2022, Cameron Diaz officially returned to acting in Netflix film Back In Action – four years after she confirmed her retirement and eight years after starring in her last movie.

Diaz officially returned to acting in 2022 – after eight years out. She told SiriusXM show Quarantined With Bruce after the birth of her daughter Raddix that she couldn’t imagine being on a movie set for 14 to 16 hours in her daughter’s first year

The Charlie’s Angel’s star, 50, officially announced she was quitting acting in 2018 so she could dedicate more time to herself and her rocker husband Benji Madden and their daughter Raddix.

In January 2020, Diaz announced to the world that she and Madden had welcomed a baby daughter and a year later, she admitted she might be out of the movie business for good.

‘Will I ever make a movie again? I’m not looking to, but will I? I don’t know. I have no idea,’ she said at the time while appearing on SiriusXM show Quarantined With Bruce. 

Diaz added: ‘Maybe, never say never, but I couldn’t imagine being a mom now, where I’m at as a mother with my child at her first year, to have to be on a movie set that takes 14 hours, 16 hours of my day away from my child.’

‘I just feel so blessed that I get to be here now with my child and, you know, get to be the mother that I get to be.’

JENNIFER GARNER – ‘I SAID NO TO EVERYTHING AND KEPT GETTING PREGNANT’
The actress, 51, famously revealed how her former agent gave her an ultimatum after she kept turning down work because she was struggling to juggle parenting with an A-list career. She shares three children, Violet Anne, 17, Seraphina Rose, 13, and Samuel, 11, with ex husband Ben Affleck. 

Jennifer Garner opened up about an ultimatum her former agent once gave her, about either retiring from acting, or starring in Dallas Buyers Club – after she ‘kept saying no to everything’

The 51-year-old actress had contemplating turning down the role of Dr. Eve Saks in Dallas Buyers Club, saying ‘she was truly overwhelmed by a third kid’ with ex husband Ben Affleck

According to The Hollywood Reporter, her agent in 2012, Patrick Whitesell, who also represented her then-husband Ben Affleck, told her ‘This is going to be a call about one of two things: It’s going to be a call about you doing this little movie, or it’s going to be a call about you retiring.’

The film was the Dallas Buyers Club, which earned lead Matthew McConaughey an Oscar. 

She said: ‘I knew I’d asked enough of my representatives, who’d been working their tails off for me and I had said no to everything and kept getting pregnant. But I was truly overwhelmed by a third kid. 

Ben was making Argo and I was just trying to keep the plates spinning. I also knew that I didn’t want to be done acting, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’”

SHANIA TWAIN – ‘MY SON HAS HAD A VERY NORMAL CHILDHOOD’

Comeback – but Shania Twain took time out to give her son Eja a ‘normal childhood’ (Pictured performing at the 2023 Faster Horses Music Festival Michigan International Speedway in July)

The Man, I Feel like a Woman singer is currently enjoying a huge comeback, appearing on stage with Harry Styles at Coachella in 2022 and a Vegas residency.

However, when her son Eja D’Angelo Lange, now 21, who she shares with ex-husband, Robert “Mutt” Lange, was little, the country star took time out to ‘focus on motherhood’. 

Eja was born in 2001, and the singer moved to Switzerland, taking a significant break from her performing career. 

She told You Magazine in 2017: ‘I love domestic life. Eja has had a very normal childhood: he wasn’t tutored or raised by nannies. I like cooking his weekend breakfast and making his lunch. I love taking him to his sports games and driving to his school and meeting his friends. 

She added: ‘I gave up touring when he was two, so Shania is not the person who raised him. We’re very close.’

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