Holly Willoughby’s heartbreak: ‘How can I leave my family?’

As she prepares for a major life change, the TV star is worried she's made the wrong call

Holly Willoughby and Dan Baldwin

by heatworld |
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She stepped away from her “ultimate dream job” last October – telling fans her decision to leave This Morning after 14 years was one she’d made “for me and my family”. And since then, Holly Willoughby has remained committed to putting her family first, balancing a far less jam-packed work schedule with her home life as a mum of three.

But next month, the TV queen is set for a massive life change all over again as she heads to Central America to film her new Netflix series Bear Hunt, alongside survival expert Bear Grylls. The show will see them put “a group of unlikely British celebrities” through their paces in the middle of the jungle, and – though it may sound similar to a certain ITV celebrity jungle show – this is a massive coup for Holly. After all, considering Netflix’s global reach, the new gig will potentially expose her to a far broader audience than she ever had on This Morning, and will set the stage for her away from that sofa.

There’s just one problem: the show is on the other side of the world, and although she’s previously had her family in tow for far-flung filming, that’s not looking possible this time. So, an insider tells heat, Holly is both excitedly counting down the days until she launches the next stage of her career, and simultaneously dreading it.

“Of course, Holly’s thrilled about the new show. But it’s also been a bit heartbreaking , because she’s realised it’s not really feasible to take the kids out of school and bring them with her,” says an insider close to the 43 year old, who lives in London with her husband, TV producer Dan Baldwin, and their three children, Harry, 14, Belle, 12, and Chester, eight.

“Being 5,000 miles away for a month of filming isn’t going to be easy, so she’s really tried to think of every way possible to make it less painful. She’ll FaceTime as much as possible, but she also knows that Netflix expect a lot, so she can’t be disappearing to take long family calls whenever she feels like it. Besides, her destination is nine hours behind the UK, so she’ll be in bed when the kids are up. She gets quite upset thinking about it.”

It’s no secret that last year was a turbulent one for the star, which as heat reported, led her to totally reassess her priorities. After her longtime This Morning co-host and former BFF Philip Schofield stepped down following his “unwise but not illegal” affair with a much younger colleague, Holly did her best to put on a brave face, but didn’t escape the backlash. She continued working on This Morning with guest presenters, but in October, was understandably stricken when it emerged she had been the target of an alleged kidnap plot. As a result, she left This Morning for the welfare of her family.

As heat has told you, Holly’s since been quietly strategising her next career move. Although she returned to ITV earlier this year to co-host Dancing On Ice, she’s also made attempts to branch out. She recently parted ways with Marks & Spencer, freeing her up for new brand deals, and has also enlisted the PR company responsible for Brand Beckham, hinting at her hopes to go global. Now, her new Netflix show promises even more opportunities. Yet, despite her husband and kids’ encouragement, we’re told there’s still a niggling sense of regret over her forthcoming gig.

“Holly really doesn’t do well when she’s away from her family, and she also feels bad for putting pressure on Dan to hold the fort, although her mum will also help when she can,” says our insider. “Dan keeps reminding her that, while she’s an amazing mum, she needs to grab this opportunity with both hands. He’s told her that they’ll have an epic reunion when she gets home. But that kind of talk just makes her burst into tears, because she realises this is really happening. In some ways, she regrets signing up as she knows she’s going to miss them so much, but she’s just trying to be brave and go with it.”

What makes Holly’s upcoming separation from her family even more bittersweet is the fact that they’ve all travelled together in the past for her work – including in 2018, when she stepped in for Ant McPartlin as co-host of I’m A Celebrity. But this time, with the children much older, it would be a lot harder for them to take so much time off school. And, as someone who’s opened up before about her feelings of “mum guilt”, we’re told that’s difficult for Holly to face.

Speaking on The One Show in 2021, she revealed she felt “guilty about everything”, saying, “What I’m feeling guilty about is, in some way, I’m telling myself I clearly don’t love my kids, because I love my career more than my children, which is why I’m choosing to do this. Of course, I know that’s not the case. I know I love my kids more than anything on this planet. So, why am I thinking like that? It’s because I believe that is what everyone else is thinking. You just have to kind of reevaluate whose rules you are living by – are they yours? Are they your opinions, or are they other ones that are out there?”

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Our source adds that, for now, friends and family are urging her to take her own advice, re-evaluate her fears, and ultimately ignore any niggling doubts she’s feeling.

After all, they know she’ll regret it even more if she wastes the opportunity.

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