KATE RITCHIE EX­CLU­SIVE: mother­hood, mar­riage and her muse Mae

Pro­tect­ing her pri­vate life has been a daily bat­tle for Kate Ritchie since she was a child star. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view she tells Michael Sheather that mak­ing the most of ev­ery mo­ment with her artis­tic daugh­ter Mae is at the heart of her world.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents -

Lit­tle Mae Webb has some­thing to show her mother. It’s a sheet of white art pa­per with a se­ries of brightly coloured draw­ings. “So, what is that, Mae?” asks her mum, Kate Ritchie, the 40-yearold ac­tress and ra­dio per­son­al­ity who made her name as TV’s beloved Sally Fletcher on the beach­side soap, Home and Away. “Is that a vol­cano? Or is it some broc­coli?”

“No, Mum,” in­sists Mae, mildly ex­as­per­ated that her mother doesn’t know what her care­fully crafted draw­ings are. “That’s a tree.”

Of course, it’s a tree, says Kate. “How silly of me. I should have known that, shouldn’t I?” Mae nods. “Yes, Mum. You should...”

What Kate and four-year-old Mae don’t know is that as we are wrap­ping up af­ter a pho­to­graphic shoot for

The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly, a pa­parazzo pho­tog­ra­pher has them sharply in fo­cus from be­hind the cover of a hedge about 40 me­tres away. As we speak, on a deck out­side a pri­vate home, that pho­tog­ra­pher is al­ready click­ing away, cap­tur­ing can­did images of Mae and Kate ex­chang­ing the lit­tle girl’s draw­ings.

Wel­come to Kate Ritchie’s world, a world in which she and her fam­ily are fair game for a tabloid press out to wring ev­ery an­gle from her pri­vate life. Dur­ing the past few years, Kate, her hus­band Stu­art, and their daugh­ter Mae have seen such be­hav­iour many times.

Some­times, it’s a sala­cious head­line in a down­mar­ket gos­sip mag­a­zine shrieking about re­la­tion­ship ruin or im­pend­ing di­vorce. Other times, it’s long-lens pa­parazzo tak­ing aim from be­hind the cover of a sub­ur­ban hedge. Ei­ther way, Kate lives her life with a con­stant sense that she and those she loves are the quarry in a bizarre game of celebrity fox and hounds.

The trou­ble, of course, is that for Kate it’s not a game. It’s her life and her re­la­tion­ships that are – time and again – caught in the cross re. In the tabloid world pre­sented by the mag­a­zines, Stu­art, a for­mer pro­fes­sional rugby league player turned chef, is per­pet­u­ally on the verge of leav­ing their eight-year mar­riage. Ev­ery twist and turn, ev­ery hol­i­day snap, ev­ery com­ment is minutely ex­am­ined and re-ex­am­ined, yet some­how that spec­u­lated break-up never even­tu­ates.

“Yes, of course it is wrong,” says Kate, sad­dened at the need to clar­ify an ir­ri­tat­ing an­noy­ance. “Yes, it is base­less. But I don’t want to say any more about it be­cause I know that if I do then it will breathe life into it again and I don’t want to do that.

“When you ask me how does that af­fect me, the truth is that I have had to learn not to let it af­fect me.

So I con­sciously refuse to let it af­fect me. Firstly, I think good luck to any­body who thinks that they know what is go­ing on in my life be­cause there are times when I am not sure – and I don’t mean that in a neg­a­tive way. What I mean is that I am just putting one foot in front of the other and try­ing to live my life.

“Like most things in my life, Mae is the in­spi­ra­tion.”

“I have given up let­ting those things into my life. It’s not just spec­u­la­tion about my mar­riage, it is about my ca­reer or my par­ent­ing or any­thing that I have ever done or been through. There comes a time when you must stop re­spond­ing to deny oxy­gen to this spec­u­la­tion.

I also think that spec­u­la­tion, be it about some­body’s mar­riage or any­thing else, is sim­ply lazy jour­nal­ism. It’s of­ten just a cut and paste of what has been said be­fore.”

It’s difcult to live un­der a mi­cro­scope. Kate, who turned 40 in Au­gust this year, has been in­side that fame bub­ble since she was just eight years old. She grew up on the sets of Home and Away, from child­hood, through pu­berty to adult­hood in the full glare of the pub­lic gaze. And while Kate en­joyed most facets of her child­hood, that con­stant scru­tiny is not some­thing that she is keen to re­visit for Mae who, since her birth four years ago, has be­come the fo­cus of Kate’s life away from ra­dio and TV.

We are here to dis­cuss Kate’s lat­est book, It’s Not Scrib­ble To Me, a de­light­ful chil­dren’s story about a cre­ative lit­tle bear who launches her artis­tic ca­reer by draw­ing on var­i­ous parts of her de­spair­ing par­ents’ home.

“Like most things in my life, Mae is the in­spi­ra­tion,” says Kate. “It’s all to do with that lit­tle per­son and the huge ef­fect she has had on our lives. My rst book be­gan as a let­ter to my un­born child and then to the baby who nally ar­rived as a way of qui­eten­ing that in­ner di­a­logue that a mother has when birth is ap­proach­ing. So, of course, she is ab­so­lutely the in­spi­ra­tion for this.”

And Mae is clearly a cre­ative child. At her age, she is, like many de­vel­op­ing chil­dren, ob­sessed with arts and crafts of all sorts. It’s a rare day that she doesn’t bring home a thick sheaf of new draw­ings and paint­ings from day care, most of which now hang around the Webb-Ritchie house­hold.

“I’m not telling par­ents any­thing new but kids love to scrib­ble,” laughs Kate. “And kids of­ten scrib­ble in places that you don’t want them to. Mae is a bud­ding artist and hasn’t yet learned the rules about where that art is meant to go. So I have some lovely lit­tle art­works all over the house, to the point that my mum, Heather, threw all the tex­tas into the bin. Once the sofa came un­der at­tack, that’s where Nanny had to draw the line on the tex­tas. That’s where the story comes from.”

Beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated by Vic­to­ri­abased chil­dren’s artist Jedda Robaard, the book is also a heart­felt ap­peal to par­ents to try to look past the ir­ri­ta­tion and de­struc­tion wrought by their arty kids and in­stead see the cre­ative joy of imag­i­na­tion and child­hood.

“The mes­sage is, of course, en­joy it while you can,” says Kate. “I know that some­times it’s hard to see the joy when your walls or your fur­ni­ture are cov­ered in crayon. Ab­so­lutely it is. And I am not say­ing that I am per­fect ev­ery day, be­cause I am not. But I do know that Mae serves as a beau­ti­ful re­minder to me to con­cen­trate on the more im­por­tant things in life. Also, it’s lovely to see her be­ing cre­ative and take such pride and joy in that. She’s so ex­citable and has such a vivid imag­i­na­tion – I just wish that I could bot­tle that imag­in­ing and then give it back to her when she is 25 or 30, when she is start­ing to work out what the world is re­ally about.”

Mae is Kate and Stu­art’s rst child and Kate is quick to point out that she doesn’t know ev­ery­thing about be­ing a mother. “But I do know that there is a day com­ing down the track when she won’t want to pick up her pen­cils or crayons and draw the world that she sees around her,” she says. “And when that day hap­pens, I will prob­a­bly wish that we were back here again. That’s what I keep telling my­self: en­joy it while you can. I say that all the time.

“She is only four but she is only one year away from go­ing to school. I can see that day when I have to hand her over to some­one else get­ting closer all the time and I want to keep savour­ing this time as long as I can.”

Sur­pris­ingly, Kate says that Mae is teach­ing her far more than she is teach­ing her daugh­ter. “That is some­thing that I am in amaze­ment about,” says the two-time Gold Lo­gie win­ner. “She is un­doubt­edly the great­est achieve­ment of my life.

I am most at ease with my­self when I am with her.”

You can see that in the way they in­ter­act. Dur­ing our shoot, Mae and Kate sit to­gether on a windswept patch of grass with a beach for a back­drop, Kate in a long, ow­ing gold gown and Mae in a match­ing dress. Mae is laugh­ing and gig­gling, play­ing hide and seek with her mum un­der Kate’s vo­lu­mi­nous skirts.

“Of course, this is only one ver­sion of our lives to­gether,” ad­mits Kate. “We don’t do this kind of thing very of­ten. Most of our lives are far less glam­ourous. But we are hav­ing fun and we do that a lot. But she, like any child, can be chal­leng­ing. And not only chal­leng­ing in that ‘I wish

I had more sleep, I wish I had more time to my­self’ kind of way. She also chal­lenges me in ways I never re­ally

“She is un­doubt­edly the great­est achieve­ment in my life.”

thought pos­si­ble. She chal­lenges the way I look at the world and even the way I think about my­self. Not that she would even un­der­stand that yet.

“Mae is prob­a­bly the only per­son who sees me just as me. I am her mum and our re­la­tion­ship is based on that, not on any­thing that I do for a job or any­one’s pre­con­cep­tion of me be­cause of that. For Mae, I am just her mummy and none of the rest of it mat­ters.

“Many, many peo­ple over the years have formed an idea of who they think I am long be­fore they have even met me, so in that way she is chal­leng­ing my ideas about my­self. I can show her who I re­ally am and not have any of that other bag­gage colour the re­la­tion­ship in any way. I think she is prob­a­bly the rst per­son who I have met who comes to me with a com­pletely blank can­vas.

“Just re­cently, I have been reect­ing on my life as an eight-year-old grow­ing up on set and the life that comes with that. It’s taken me a long time to un­der­stand the im­pact that has had on me and hav­ing this lit­tle per­son in my life has helped me nd some bal­ance and un­der­stand­ing about that.”

There’s lit­tle doubt that Mae has a con­sid­er­able ef­fect on Stu­art, too. Like many fa­ther-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ships, the daugh­ter clearly has the fa­ther wrapped around her lit­tle nger.

“They have such a tight and special re­la­tion­ship,” says Kate. “I see it all the time. She ab­so­lutely adores Stu­art and he adores her. It’s cer­tainly not hard to see that. She gives him a very good ex­cuse to act like a child again. She gives him full rein to be a child again. In fact,” she says, laugh­ing, “he’s re­ally a big child so Mae has given him a free ticket to child­hood. We have a lovely dog, Mac, and they all play to­gether on the oor. It’s hi­lar­i­ous and lovely.”

And, of course, there may still be room for even more joy, says Kate.

She has long har­boured a wish to have a sec­ond child with Stu­art and that, she says, is still their am­bi­tion.

“Yes, de nitely, yes,” she says.

“We would love to give Mae a lit­tle brother or sis­ter one day. That’s still very much on the cards, even if I can’t tell when it might hap­pen. That would be so lovely.” AWW

Stu­art and Kate en­joy be­ing par­ents and hope to have more chil­dren in fu­ture.

Kate Ritchie the mum (above) and the child star who cap­tured the at­ten­tion of the na­tion (right).

It’s Not a Scrib­ble to Me by Kate Ritchie, il­lus­trated by Jedda Robaard, pub­lished by Pic­ture Puf n, is on sale from Oc­to­ber 29.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.