Much like the rest of us, Alex Jones has spent most of the last 12 months flitting between tearing her hair out and trying to make the best of the baffling situation she’s found herself in.
Throughout the pandemic, the host of The One Show has juggled presenting the flagship evening programme – which she’s hosted for over a decade now – with caring for her children, Teddy, four, and Kit, 22 months, with her husband Charlie Thomson, 42.
And yet today, as she sits at her kitchen counter on a Zoom call with us, the mum of two still emanates the same upbeat energy that she always has.
“It’s been like a pandemic times a thousand today!” laughs Alex. “My husband isn’t feeling well, the four year old was up five times in the night with a tummy bug and the baby is teething. So today, at this very moment, it’s not going great!”
Her good humour clearly not dented despite the chaos, Alex, 44, reveals how she’s been navigating lockdown as a working mum, why she still struggles with body image and whether or not there are more kids on the horizon…
Alex, how are you finding parenting in the pandemic?
It’s a rollercoaster. One day it’s like: “I’ve got this!” The next day, it’s: “Oh my god, my life’s fallen apart!” The first lockdown was tricky because me and Charlie [an insurance broker] were both working full-time and we couldn’t get any help with childcare, but at least we had nice weather, so the kids could spend all day in the paddling pool.
Luckily, because they are so young, we haven’t had to do homeschooling, although we try to do things with Teddy that he would be doing at pre-school.
Have you felt pressure in your relationship because of it?
It’s funny because, before, I knew what Charlie did as a job title, but I didn’t really know what he did! Now I understand because I hear his phone calls. It works both ways, because he now realises my job isn’t just in the afternoon – it actually spills into the rest of the day.
That’s given us a deeper understanding of the demands on each other. I think the pandemic has tested people, and with couples, it’s sorted the wheat from the chaff. If you can get through lockdown together, you know it’s going to be OK.
What kind of mum are you, compared to the kind of mum you thought you’d be?
When I was pregnant with Teddy, I was like: “Yeah, I’ll make all the food from scratch!” but sometimes you’ve got to take shortcuts. I suffer badly from mother’s guilt. I’ll race to pick them up from nursery, even though it’s minutes before I need to be on a Zoom call, just so I can be the one who picks them up.
You feel pressure, and I don’t think that ever goes away, but you can’t give yourself a hard time about not doing everything perfectly. The house might be a tip, but if we can have a kitchen disco with the bubble machine and a bit of Frozen, everybody’s happy! That’s all you can hope for, especially at the moment.
Would you be open to having any more kids?
Gosh, I think we’ve been dead lucky to have the two boys – I’m still amazed we made them! Life is really busy, and we’re super-happy, so now’s a good time to stop!
Do you think you’ve become more body-confident over the years?
Not at all! I’ve birthed two children, and it’s all gone slightly to s**t! But this is why I’ve got involved with AXA Health’s Feelgood Health campaign. It’s not about becoming an Olympian, it’s about doing something manageable.
If I can get outside on my own, for 20-30 minutes, three times a week, I feel more positive. I’ll go for a run singing along to The Greatest Showman, or sometimes I’ll walk and have a hot chocolate halfway. It’s hardly exercise, but I feel better for having that space to reset, and I think I’m a better parent for having that time on my own.
Do you ever worry about ageing?
I have days where I look in the mirror and go: “I’m sure that little line wasn’t there before!” I’ve never considered getting anything done, because what if it goes wrong? What if I look ridiculous? I don’t feel pressure, but I do find I’m having more conversations where people ask if I’ve had anything done and I say: “No, why? Have you?”
And they’re like: “Yeah, it’s normal!” Sleepless nights age anybody, and if this lockdown goes on much longer, I’ll look about 180! Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’d never rule it out, but I don’t feel I’m there yet.
What do you think of your co-hosts on The One Show?
It’s like telly Tinder, never knowing who might pop up! I enjoy that, because it gives the show flavour. I have midlife chats about barbecues with Ronan Keating, and Michael Ball gives me recipe tips. When Alex Scott comes in, it’s like seeing a friend. We’ll natter away and suddenly it’ll be 5.45pm when we’re due in the studio, and we’ll be like: “Oh my god, neither of us has any make-up on!”
Harry Judd lives close to me and I’d normally see him at soft play, so it’s funny that we’re now sharing a sofa – or not, as the case may be! I adore Rylan. He taught me how to contour my face and we were weak with laughter, because I looked like a really bad Kim Kardashian.
The show has kept going through all the lockdowns – you must be proud of that?
I’ve been privileged to host The One Show during this pandemic, because the connection with our viewers has been at its strongest. We’ve had letters from people saying: “I’m so grateful for the programme, because it’s given me a sense of normality and familiarity.” One lady, who’s 83, wrote a lovely letter, saying: “Alex, you’re the only sort of family I see every day.”
It struck me how important the show is at this moment in time. We try to see the lighter side, because I think everybody wants that hour after the news to have a glass of wine and shift gear into something relaxing. We’re not saving lives, but we’re getting people through it, in our own little way.
- Alex is the face of AXA Health’s Feelgood Health campaign. For more information, visit AXA Health’s Feelgood Health Hub.
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