Alex Jones, the TV host and now author, talks family life, returning to work and the reality of first-time motherhood in your thirties
How’s life been since the birth of one-year-old Teddy?
Life is unrecognisable from where it was two years ago, but better in so, so many ways. I always wanted a family, but I wasn’t hugely maternal. I was glad when I fell pregnant because we were ready, but I wasn’t quite ready for the surge of love. Our life is less frenetic than it used to be – it’s more solid, more centred, more calm, and we love it. Having said that, some days you do think, ‘what have I done – is this going to continue forever?’ and that’s the flipside of it. While it’s magical, it’s also a game-changer!
So would you say motherhood has changed you as a person?
It’s definitely made me a better person, I’m more focused and better at my job. Some people say I rushed back to work – and yes, it was a short amount of time – but I work in a very fickle industry [Alex went back to work after three months off]. Plus, situations have changed since our mothers’ generation – I’m the main breadwinner, like many of my girlfriends are, and it’s hard to balance being self-employed with having a baby. I’m luckier than most, but I do think I’m a better presenter now than I was before because I know myself a lot more.
You touch upon change in your new book, Winging It! Can you tell us more about that?
The book kind of does three jobs really; it’s got a lot of practical stuff in there, like lists of what you need to buy and advice on things like childcare, but it’s also a very honest account of motherhood that was written by me in the midst of my first year. A lot of people write these things in hindsight – but I was writing this in the eye of the storm. Now reading it back, I think, ‘oh god, it’s so personal, I can’t actually believe it’s in print!’ but I’m also glad it’s out there.
I talk about conception, I talk about my labour, I talk about how difficult I found breastfeeding and how it nearly tipped me over the edge. I talk about the impact Teddy has had on our relationship – good and bad – even my husband Charlie is like, ‘Al, I can’t believe you’ve actually written this down!’
However, it’s also a general guide for women who are becoming mothers, but essentially those in their late thirties who already have a busy career and think, ‘my life is already at capacity, how am I going to fit a baby into this, and enjoy it?’
Why did you also decide to include experts in there?
I could give personal experience by the bucket-load but I thought to give it gravitas it was important to get the voice of some experts in there. Then, on top of that, there are anecdotes from other parents. As somebody who came to London for my career – the same for my husband – we don’t have parents nearby who can help us. We had to rely on peers for advice. And that’s something that’s quite common for couples, so I wanted to bring all those anxieties together into one book and address them.
Did you have an enjoyable pregnancy?
I loved it. It’s odd, your body is being completely taken over, and yet, it’s amazing to watch it change. It’s like being the subject of your own David Attenborough programme! Some days it gets you down, but on the whole I found pregnancy really uplifting and was more at ease with myself than I had ever been before.
What have been your can’t-live-without items ever since?
Firstly, Water Wipes – loads of them! Teddy has never had nappy rash and I’m convinced it’s because of them. For Teddy’s pushchair we bought a Stokke, which is like the 4X4 of prams. My NCT girls would always joke, ‘oh, here she comes with her massive pram!’ but it’s super safe and there’s loads of space underneath. My friend also bought me a Gro-Egg room thermometer for Teddy’s nursery, which has been amazing, even though at first I had no idea what it was for. Oh, and a mobile and mirror in the car is essential because Teddy hates travelling.
Where do you like to shop?
I like Zara Baby, and JoJo Maman Bébé because the clothes wash up amazingly. I also love Fara, the children’s charity shops. They have them all over London, but a good tip is to go to the one in Notting Hill where you can pick up little Chloé jackets. I also like Fred & Noah for baby leggings, Frugi for organic clothing, and The Little Green Sheep for bedding.
Where do you live in London?
Chiswick – we had our first date in the pub at the end of our road and literally haven’t moved since. We’ve celebrated everything at the same table in the same pub! We love Chiswick because it’s so family-focused. We used to joke that you couldn’t move for buggies around there, but of course, now it’s brilliant.
What’s a typical weekend like for you these days?
Weekends are sacred now because that’s the only time we have as a threesome. And we’re so lazy; we’ll sit around in our pyjamas until midday! Then if Ted goes down for a nap, often Charlie and I will sneak back to bed too. We might go for a brunch or head to the shops, or take Ted for a walk down by the river.