Is there a right way and wrong way to parenting? Formula One heiress Tamara Ecclestone has been roundly condemned for coddling her three-year-old daughter, Sophia. But should we judge a mother’s love? In this revealing interview, the millionaire mum finally answers her critics, but it’s not what you’d expect. ‘I need to deal with my anxiety,’ she says. ‘And that’s the brutal reality’
Good gracious, things are busy at the Ecclestone home this morning. When I arrive at Tamara’s Kensington pad, just a few doors down from Prince William and Kate’s west London address, the happiful photoshoot is well underway. Judging by the supersize Queen Elsa castle and three rocking horses on display, we seem to be in a room devoted to Tamara’s three-year-old daughter, Sophia, or “Fifi” as Tamara affectionately calls her. She’s easily the liveliest person present. Unfazed by the crowd of observers – hair and makeup, a publicist, a stylist, happiful’s editor and our photographer, as well as a ball of fluff otherwise known as Teddy the pooch – Sophia plonks down with mummy on the densely carpeted floor and smiles for the camera before scampering towards a sprawling, grey leather coffee table where two cups of coffee sit – a latte for Tamara and a miniature babyccino for Sophia. Carefully lifting teaspoonfuls of “coffee” from the cup to her mouth, Sophia avoids her crisp white blouse, but the table, which is splattered with dollops of milky froth, grains of sugar and sticky fingerprints, looks a right state. Tamara doesn’t bat an eyelid, which is remarkable. “I have OCD,” she has previously admitted. “Things have to be in order.” Later, as we sit chatting in her kitchen, she labels herself a list-maker. “I’m a planner, I like order and tidiness, but having Sophia has made me realise that I don’t care about the mess anymore.”
Being the eldest daughter of the former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – he’s now 86 and the 42nd richest person in Britain – you might expect a horde of helpers busily tidying up after the 33-year-old heiress, but no. Tamara doesn’t employ nannies or nursemaids, and there’s no baby entourage in the background. She does everything herself, including managing the mess. “Since Sophia’s been a toddler, there’s mess everywhere and I’m OK with it now,” she says. “I’m not going to bother replacing things that get stained, because they’re just going to get stained again!”
Take her plush sitting room, for example, where crayon scribblings on the painted walls go unDettoled. “I’m a bit of a pushover,” says Tamara, with a mother’s wink.
Since Sophia arrived by C-section in March 2014, Tamara has fought a determined and very public battle against critics who have lined up to denounce – some would say savage – her parenting skills. Tamara’s a believer in attachment parenting, or AP. And there’s the rub. Attachment parenting, which stems from attachment theory, has taken a pummelling in the past five years. Honed by decades of research, it emphasises the early mother-infant bond with a theory that supposes parents can provide their child with a safe haven of support through sensitive, age-appropriate attention to the child’s development. This means breastfeeding, baby wearing, and bed sharing.
Naturally, it’s been pilloried in the press.
Tamara, who has shared her marital bed with Sophia since she was “five or six months old”, still breastfeeds her daughter four times a day. (The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding along with complementary food “up to two years of age or beyond”.) There was no grand plan with Tamara’s parenting decisions. Sophia just had a fever one day and came into her and husband Jay Rutland’s bed, “and that was it”. In fact, Tamara and her younger sister, Petra, also slept in their mother’s bed as children, but Tamara quickly preferred her own room.
Tamara says the way she mothers Sophia feels “natural”, but unlike other celebrities who practice AP – Alanis Morissette and Angelina Jolie spring to mind – Tamara has received an epic mauling, largely because of her stream of Instagram “brelfies” (that’s breastfeeding selfies, for the uninitiated). She’s brelfied on holiday, in the sky, and at home in Kensington where, on the sofa midway through our photoshoot, Sophia yanks down Tamara’s dress and latches on.
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Photography | Joseph Sinclair
Styling | Lucy Packman
Hair | Mikey Kardashian
Make-up | Buster Knight