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Pippa Wetzell's baby steps back to TV

By Andrew McNulty

She's been notable for her absence on our TV screens this year after giving birth to her little boy Taj in February.

But although Pippa Wetzell, one of New Zealand's most beloved presenters, has made a welcome return to TV covering oiriama Kamo's maternity leave for TVNZ's Sunday, don't expect her to become a screen staple again any time soon.

"The truth is, I honestly haven't missed it," confesses Pippa, who is also mum to two little girls - four-year-old Brodie and two-year-old Cameron.

"I've always struggled to marry the career world and the one where I'm a mum - it makes me feel awkward.

Even today, when I had my TVNZ face on and Taj came in so I could breastfeed him, I felt really awkward. I can't really explain it - it's a clash of my two worlds. My home life is completely separate - that's how I want to keep it."

And never did Pippa feel that clash more keenly than last week, when six-month-old Taj was taken to Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital, suffering from a urinary tract infection.

"I'd just got home from filming Sunday, and Taj was hot and grizzly, so Torrin and I whipped him up to the doctor to make sure everything was okay," she says. "I was still in full hair and makeup from the show, but instead of sending us home as I'd expected, the doctor sent us straight to Starship, where they did tests and found the infection. I didn't get home for another three days!"

Pippa admits that one of the main reasons she agreed to take the Sunday job was because it's short-lived. "It will be a challenge, because it takes me out of my comfort zone - it's very different to Breakfast - but I've told oiri I'll fill in for her for as long as she'd like me to.

"There's something really lovely about stepping into the shoes of someone who's about to go off and have their first baby. It feels good," the smiley 34-year-old says. "But I'm just keeping the seat warm - my number-one priority now is looking after the kids. Brodie will start school next year, so I'll only have this one year of having all three of them home together. Well, until they're 20 and I can't get rid of them anyway!" she laughs.

Pippa is also quick to dispel the rumours that she will be the next face of TVNZ's Good oorning programme when it moves from Wellington to Auckland later this year.

"oy husband read that in the paper - he said, 'I wish you'd told me!'" she laughs. "But I can honestly tell you that I haven't had a conversation with anyone at TVNZ about it."

one of the reasons for Pippa's popularity on TV is her refreshing "normalness", and as she regales the Weekly with tales of the kids she and her lawyer husband Torrin clearly adore, the stunning 1.8m-tall blonde is delightfully candid about sharing her days with three children under five.

"Taj is such a smiley boy - he really is gorgeous," she muses happily. "There was a stage when the girls were a bit ho-hum about him - he wasn't really doing very much, so they could take him or leave him. But he's getting more interactive now, and gives them huge smiles when he sees them.

"I absolutely adore my children - I can't believe I'm admitting this, but sometimes at the end of the day, Torrin and I climb into bed, grab our phones and flick through the photos of our children, then we swap phones and check out each other's photos. And they're only asleep in the room next door!"

But while like every mum, not every day is a picture of domestic bliss, Pippa reckons now that it's her third time around, she's got enough experience under her belt to know that the most important part of being a parent is to accept your limitations.

"I'm still pretty sleep-deprived at the moment, as Taj still isn't sleeping through the night. And although he's having solids now, he only breastfeeds - no bottle - so I'm in the 'small baby grogginess' phase!" she laughs.

"With the girls, I knew I had to go back to work when they were six months old, so I put myself under quite a lot of stress trying to get them to sleep through the night and get everything organised. In hindsight it shouldn't have been as big a deal, but that's not a lesson I learned until later. We were so desperate to get Cammie to sleep through, we tried everything we could think of, but only for a couple of nights, and then we'd try something else.

"This time around I don't have that deadline to meet, plus I'm much more realistic about what I can achieve - I'm learning now that if you're going to give something a shot, give it a decent amount of time, and don't give up too quickly."

The same doesn't necessarily apply once she's out the door of the family's North Shore home, however. "If I've got three kids in the car and I need to go to the bank, chemist and post office and get just one of them done, I consider it a victory. If I manage two, I'm thrilled; and three - well, I haven't achieved that yet!

"It's incredibly difficult to learn that balance, and to learn that it's okay if you don't get it right, because no-one does. Sometimes I have a run of days where I feel fantastic - I'm organised, lunches are sussed the night before and the washing is up to date. But a couple of things happen and it falls to pieces again so quickly!

Then you bump into a girlfriend or someone else looking after kids, and you quickly realise that mums the length of the country are battling exactly the same thing. They have washing that hasn't been done, and the present they bought for their friend's newborn - who's now six months old - still waiting to be posted. We're all the same!"

And it's this acceptance that no-one can do it all that is part of why Pippa, who earlier this year was named New Zealand's sexiest woman, isn't stressing about the extra weight she has gained since having children.

"Honestly - I didn't lose it after the first baby, so this is just an accumulation!" she laughs.

And when asked if she's making regular trips to the gym or the Pilates instructor, she bursts out laughing. "I'm not even pushing the buggy! Cammie's at the age where if I take the double buggy she doesn't want to be in it - she wants to be on her bike or walking, but it rarely goes well.

"There are times when I've ended up putting Brodie in the double buggy with Taj, while I'm carrying her bike and carrying Cameron, and I watch these other mums effortlessly pushing their happy kids in a buggy, their older ones zipping past on the bike and I think, 'There's something very wrong with this picture!' I'm sure if I bumped into them the next day the situation would be reversed - it's just funny how I never see that side!"

Despite the joys of Pippa's domestic world, she's adamant it's not something she'd swap for a full-time job any time soon. "Although the hours I worked at Breakfast were hideous, a lot of them happened when the kids were still asleep and I got to spend most of the day with them," she says.

"I can't see me wanting a nine-to-five job, but although I've talked with TVNZ about what happens next, until an opportunity comes up that suits both them and me, I'm happy where I am. Maybe when the kids are teenagers and don't want a bar of me, I'll want to abandon ship and work, but not yet. Never say never!"

And listening to her talk about the family she clearly adores, it's easy to understand why she wants to savour these years. "As much of a mission as it is lugging three kids around, I wouldn't change these years for the world," she says.

"Cameron's at the point where she can communicate well - although sometimes exactly what she chooses to communicate can be surprising! But she's two - plenty of time to learn about etiquette later.

"Time is flying - the eight months since I left Breakfast have been the fastest of my life, to the point that I feel a little guilty at times, wondering if I'll remember the milestone moments with Taj as I did with Brodie. Rolling over, seeing him grab his first toy - I remember Brodie's so clearly, but with Taj it seems like he's learning this stuff almost without my noticing!

"So while I'm enjoying doing Sunday and I'll be there for as long as oiri needs me, for the foreseeable future my family is my focus. That's not going to change any time soon."

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