By Lauren Taylor, PA
Reality TV star Dani Dyer says she is starting to feel like herself again, after adjusting to life as a mum to her one-year-old son.
The 25-year-old, who gave birth to Santiago – also known as Santi – in January 2021, says: “It’s a massive adjustment, you sort of go from one night to another. [When] you’re a parent, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. I feel like now I’ve started to just feel like myself again.”
She says becoming a parent has “definitely” changed her, “But I absolutely love it”.
Her ex-partner Sammy Kimmence, the father of her son, was convicted of defrauding two pensioners out of more than £34,000 and jailed for three-and-a-half years in July 2021.
Dyer has embraced single parenthood, and is now rumoured to be dating footballer Jarrod Bowen (her dad, EastEnders actor Danny Dyer, posted a picture of the pair on Instagram with the caption ‘If Carlsberg made son-in-laws’).
Speaking about her son, Dyer says: “We’ve found our feet, and we have so much fun together. And you build your confidence – I just feel so confident with parenting. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many more challenges to come.”
Dyer, who shot to fame on the 2018 series of ITV’s Love Island, has been announced as an ambassador for the BBC’s Tiny Happy People – a digital, social and face-to-face initiative created by BBC Education. It aims to help parents and carers develop language and communication skills in children up to four years old.
We caught up with the mum-of-one to discuss the highs and lows of parenthood…
On her biggest challenges
Dyer says she “really did struggle” at the start. “I honestly wasn’t prepared for the rush of hormones. It was a little bit hard for me at the beginning. I remember when Santi was born, all I did was compare, and I always used to think, ‘Why can’t I breastfeed?’ I really, really struggled with that. I put so much pressure on myself.”
Like most parents, she found the lack of sleep difficult, too. “The sleep deprivation – a million thousand percent,” she says. “I’m one of those [people] – if I don’t have a good night’s sleep, the next day I just cannot function.
“I really, really don’t enjoy teething. He cut four top teeth at the same time, so it was a week of hell. He was in pain, and I couldn’t understand what it was. Once they all came through, it was such a relief for him, but now I’ve got that again [the next time it happens].”
She says she’s still learning to tell herself the tough moments are temporary. “It’s always just a phase, you’re going to come out [of it] and you’ll get your sleep back.”
On being a young mum
Dyer gave birth to Santi when she was 24, but she says loves being a young mum.
“Most of my friends have had babies and my other friend is having hers next month, so it’s nice because we’ve all got our babies together. My mum and dad had me at 18, so that’s what I’d describe as quite young. I sort of grew up with them, so I’m excited to do the same with Santi.”
On her famous dad’s support
“He loves being a grandad, absolutely loves it. When [Santi] came, [Dad] just had this rush of emotions. If I go to the gym on a Saturday, he calls it ‘Grandad Saturday’ – he’s really, really brilliant.”
She acknowledges it must be hard for people who don’t have a solid support system. “You know, someone who doesn’t have their mum around the corner, or doesn’t have their friends around the corner… I’m lucky I’ve got people around me, but not everyone has that.”
On Santi’s milestones
At 14 months, Santi is standing and taking a few steps. “He’s still quite little, so it’s funny seeing him standing and trying to walk. He does this little surfing wave where he doesn’t really know if he wants to go or not. He’s getting there!”
Dyer says she speaks to him as much as possible, to help teach him to talk. “If he’s dropped something he says, ‘Uh-oh’. He says ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘Nan’. If I say ‘one’ he says ‘two, three, four’. He’s really cute.
“It’s so, so important just to keep talking to your child, even when you’re pregnant.”
On playing games
“We play a game called pots, pans and bang – you get pots and pans out the kitchen,” she says, describing how she bangs the pans – much to her son’s entertainment. “Santi loves to dance,” she adds.
“There’s also a game called ‘What’s in the bag?’ which is really useful, because you can put all different things in a pillow case and pull things out and go. They take it all in, you don’t realise how much they can store,” she says.
“What I love most is you don’t need to go out and buy loads of toys, you can just use stuff from home.”
On getting some ‘me time’
Even as a solo parent, Dyer says she manages to get some ‘me time’. “Now he’s getting older, you learn to find your own time. Especially now he goes to bed – I have my own time to have dinner or watch a Netflix series, I have a little bath, that’s my time. But I do go to bed early – I love and early night!
“I don’t really remember life before being a mum. I definitely remember being able to have a lie in and being able to get up and do what [I] wanted for the day! But because I feel like I’m really settled in it, I can’t really remember life before it.
“I just love the unconditional love you feel, and being able to just wake up every day and have that little person – they are your best friend for life.”
Ultimately, Dyer says: “We’re all on our own paths. And we’re just winging it, really.”
Dani Dyer will be filming videos for the Tiny Happy People social channels, and sharing her daily life with Santi alongside hints and tips for parents and carers. Visit bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people.