Edwina’s return to Sunrise for brekkie TV war
Emerging from the blissful 'bubble' of new parenthood can be challenging at the best of times.
When there's a global pandemic sweeping the planet, hot on the heels of devastating bushfires which threatened large swathes of regional Australia, you'd forgive Edwina Bartholomew for wanting to wrap the swaddle around her family and baby daughter, Molly a little more tightly and stay home.
But as she returns to her role on Seven's ratings leader, Sunrise on Monday, the new mum is excited to step back into the spotlight after six months' away, ready to take on the new world order.
"I think the combination of being in isolation, plus maternity leave," Bartholomew tells News Corp Australia, "I think it's time, actually. It will be nice to speak to other humans."
Not one to shy away from the demands of her job - which saw her travel the country and the world, first as the breakfast show's weather presenter and more recently, its red carpet and entertainment editor - the popular TV star added to her off-duty 'to do list' by scheduling a house move and home renovation, only finished in the days before she gave birth.
But the chaos didn't end after her 36-hour labour delivering Molly - as the Black Summer bushfires loomed ominously over Warramba, the historic country retreat west of the Blue Mountains she has restored and rewinds at with husband, Neil Varcoe and fur baby, Mate.
For the news professional, watching the dramatic scenes unfold was an unusual feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out).
"It's been a weird time being an observer and sitting on the couch," she explains. "It was particularly hard during the bushfires, to think I couldn't contribute to telling those stories. And a little bit different with this [pandemic] because with a newborn, you wouldn't have wanted to be in at work, or out and about. The timing in that respect has been great. It feels like Australia has got a handle on it, but there's a lot still to get used to."
Returning to her Sunrise team and the breakfast TV battle she will find a shift in the pecking order - with new dad Karl Stefanovic and the rival Today show slipping behind further in the ratings; running third for the first time in its history, behind Seven and the ABC.
While the breakfast shows all experienced a bump in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, as viewers looked for updates on coronavirus, Today's modest gains have all but evaporated - losing every day this year, as they did last year, to Sunrise.
In fact, the week 20 survey suggests Sunrise has yet another breakfast ratings crown in the bag - averaging 1.147 million viewers nationally to ABC Breakfast's 905,000 and Today's record low of 719,000 viewers.
At home on her own couch, Bartholomew says "it's been lovely to watch the show as a viewer and get a sense of why we're so popular with breastfeeding mums, because you really are a captive audience, in some respects."
She's also enjoyed the social media sisterhood she's leaned on during her maternity leave - turning to over TV mums for mentoring.
"Rebecca Maddern [Weekend Today host on Nine] has been a huge, huge help from day dot," Bartholomew reveals.
"I worked very closely with her husband, Luke, when I did the weather, so we're great mates. It was just wonderful, she just provided so much useful information - from the kinds of swaddles to buy, to referring me to her midwife as well."
Bartholomew continues: "Social media can be such a superficial medium, but in a strange way, it's helped me connect with all sorts of people. You know, Carrie Bickmore [The Project] and Sarah Harris [Studio 10] and all these lovely people who can reach out and say 'hello' and 'how you going?' It's been a beautiful thing, I think."
"It also keeps you connected with the world when you're sitting at home on the couch and wondering if you're doing things right or wrong, or know what you're doing at all," she says.
The slowdown has also had a silver lining in that this frenetic planner has been forced to go with the flow. And she's surprised herself by loving it.
"I've really enjoyed the slow pace of isolation and not having too many commitments and logistics. I hope to retain a little bit of that, as much as I hope the world retains a bit of that," she says.
"As Molly was getting around 2.5 months old, I could feel myself starting to fill the calendar up again and seeing friends and almost resented having too much on. But then lockdown happened and it was actually really good for someone like me, who likes to be busy."
"My preference is to be busy and it's certainly not Neil's," she laughs, "so it's been nice to find that equilibrium and we've really enjoyed this time as a family, like so many families out there, to have this time together."
"We're also really fortunate that she will sit on a mat and play with a toy, or you can blow her some bubbles, or sing her a song and she's happy. She's a great age, rather than if we were having to home school."
Another casualty of the COVID-19 outbreak were Bartholomew's plan to take Molly to her first Olympic Games, while her mum played a part in Seven's coverage from Tokyo.
But when the Games were forced to be postponed to 2021 (at this stage, in June), those travel arrangements are up in the air.
"Obviously taking a six month old versus taking a 1.5 year old might be a different prospect," Bartholomew explains.
"She'll be a bit more on the more, more active. I'd absolutely love to make it work for sure. Originally I was taking my parents to help, so maybe now Neil might come instead. We'll do our best to make it work. You think of all the mums in this industry who have made that kind of balance and juggle work, so I'm definitely not Robinson Crusoe in that respect. I'm going to give it a shot, but check back with me in May or June next year," she laughs.
* Sunrise, 5am-9am, weekdays, on Seven.
Originally published as Edwina's return to Sunrise for brekkie TV war