Muddled by a hangover and post-toddler tantrum stress, I’m talking to the Scummy Mummies, otherwise known as Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn of the hit parenting podcast of the same name. It turns out that the comedy duo are the perfect foil to wallowing in self-pity, doubting your mothering skills, and comparing yourself to the imagined perfection of Instagram.

I haven’t brushed my hair (and possibly not my teeth) so I start the Skype call desperately hoping we won’t video chat. By the end I want to ask them to turn their cameras on so I can smile at their reassuringly matching tangles. “You know,” says Ellie, “if you don’t go on Instagram, you don’t feel the pressure from it. Boom!” Helen cheers me with an earthy, “motherhood is being glamorised but every kid has tantrums, every kid shits, let’s not pretend otherwise.”

It’s only three years ago (at video-games journalist Ellie’s third ever stand-up gig, and Australian comedian Helen’s first gig after a six year break) that the pair met. “We were performing in Deptford, in a shipping container, under a flyover,” remembers Helen, “and we just really liked each other’s jokes.” When they discovered they were practically neighbours, and that their children were born 11 days apart with the help of the same midwife, they began a friendship that appears to be based 60% on a deep soul connection, and 40% on Merlot.

We’re honest. We say things that everyone at the school gates is thinking but that nobody dares to say

“There’s an idea that mothers are competitive about parenting, but Ellie and I would only compete to see who was the scummiest. I’d say ‘we had fish fingers for dinner three times last week’ and she’d say ‘that’s nothing, my son did a poo in the swimming pool.’ We would laugh about how rubbish we were.”

After thinking they couldn’t be the only people to feel that way their fortnightly podcast was born. A festival of honesty, soundtracked by the grounding clink of wine glasses, the show covers everything from sex to autism, with games, scummy confessions and “intelligent guests who actually know things” thrown in. When asked why their approach has been so successful, Helen reflects, “we have no shame and we are ridiculous. We’re so honest, saying things that everyone at the school gates is thinking but nobody dares to say.”

Though they describe themselves as “idiots who don’t know what we’re doing” (and sound horrified when I suggest they might have set out to make a podcast with a worthy agenda) they’ve received an astonishing amount of feedback from listeners who have had a truly emotional response to the show.

“We got an email from a woman whose husband was away in the army,” explains Ellie. “She had three kids, two dogs and was on antidepressants. Listening to all our podcasts in a row had finally made her feel better. We cried when we read it.” Helen sniffs, “I’m crying now!”

The show takes them “hours and hours” to put together but their motivation “aside from that fact we love drinking and it’s an excellent excuse not to see our husbands” is when people tell them it makes them feel less lonely. They run screaming from words like ‘empower’ but are clearly driven in part by the knowledge that people genuinely need what they do.

You can take a baby to the pub, it isn’t going to accidentally drink a pint and get pissed

Refreshingly open to talking about almost everything the Scummies only steadfast rule is to be inclusive and never pass judgement. “We don’t give a fuck what you do,” reassures Helen. “Breast, bottle, home birth, caesarean. We’ve made some different choices ourselves and that’s our business. We don’t want to take sides.”

With their live show coming to London, Camp Bestival and Dorset this summer I have to ask about their iconic gold catsuits. “We bought them because we thought the idea of two middle-aged women in gold lycra would be funny – and we were right,” says Ellie. “But it’s not just a funny joke, it’s about two women who’ve had four children between them going out on stage in an outfit that shows every lump and every bump and being proud of it.”

Do what you need to, care less about what others think, be honest about parenting, have fun and laugh. That’s what I take from from talking to the Scummy Mummies. I feel better about my own relentless ineptitudes and have a Pavlovian response to their voices where I’m compelled to drink wine with my friends and laugh at our screw-ups while remembering why we aren’t that rubbish after all.

“We want people to feel normal and not alone, know that they can get through the bleak bits of parenting while being reminded of the moments of incredible love and joy and humour that it brings,” says Ellie. A good job well done I reckon.

Ellie and Helen, aka the Scummy Mummies, in their iconic gold catsuits

8 Basic Survival Tips for Scummy Mummies

1. Look after yourself – it’s not selfish. If you’re fucked the child’s fucked anyway.

2. Learn how to ask for help and don’t feel bad. Tell your partner you have to go and sit in the bath and read Glamour for an hour.

3. If you don’t have parents or a partner around to help, do swaps with your friends so you can each chill out.

4. Grab any tiny moment and treat yourself. Ellie: “I used to drive to Sainsbury’s and buy a ham knuckle and sit in the car and gnaw on that ham knuckle until the baby woke up getting grease and salt all over the steering wheel. It was about doing something – something deeply unhealthy and disgusting – for myself.”

5. Don’t freak out about what the kids eat! They’ll be fine whatever you feed them.

6. You don’t have to change your friends or who you are when you have a baby. If you weren’t Mary Poppins before you don’t have to be her now.

7. Don’t spend loads of time and money dragging yourself to baby drumming and baby yoga. The baby just wants to spend time with you even if that’s on the sofa, eating Hobnobs and watching The Real Housewives of Orange County.

8. You can take a baby to the pub – it isn’t going to accidentally drink a pint and get pissed. “When I had a baby,” says Ellie “everyone suddenly wanted to go for coffee. Who wants coffee? I wanted to go for a pint like I always had. So I did.”

Find the Scummy Mummies @scummymummies

Listen to their podcast:

Live shows:

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