OK, I have to admit it. My husband, Professor Brian Cox, has become a bit well-known these past couple months. I don't remember the exact moment when I realised he was famous. It may have been the gushing article in the Daily Mail or when we were out for a walk and a paparazzi jumped out and snapped us (I'm not exactly sure where it ended up, but we were told it was Heat Magazine). I don't have a lot of experience being the wife of a famous man, but I'm a fast learner and am getting a pretty good idea of what it involves.
On the plus side - and this isn't to be sniffed at - he has earned enough money this year so I don't have to rush back to work after having a baby. For this, I am very, very thankful. We've been together 9 years and it's only this year really that Brian has earned enough to make it possible for me to take time out of work. We have always lived in separate houses (I work in London, he works in Manchester), so more than most couples we need two incomes.
That isn't to say that I don't want to go back to work. I do, very much so. I love my work and miss the intellectual stimulation, the thrill of doing something new, the satisfaction of achievement, the time to think, the coffee breaks, the lunch hours, the talking to adults, the not being covered in drool, mashed-up food or poo for a large part of the day, the unbitten nipples. But I suspect it will be a while yet before I can get back to the all-encompassing work I used to do. In the meantime, I have to make do with the thrill of occasionally writing a Tweet that gets re-Tweeted a few times.
Choosing to have a baby when we did has turned out to be much more difficult than we were expecting. Our baby boy was born smack dab in the middle of Brian's filming of "Wonders of the Solar System". This meant that he was away from the end of my second trimester of pregnancy, during which I sold my house and moved on my own, he had a month off during which I gave birth, then he was mainly away again until our son was 6 months old. Yes, while he was off filming in some of the most remarkable, beautiful and stunning locations around the world, I was heavily pregnant, looking after my 13 year old son, then adding a newborn to the mix and throughout was running the house on my own.
This brings me to the decidedly unglamorous side to being married to a successful man: real life still needs to be lived.
Since his programme has aired and his notoriety has grown, the "clash" of fame and real life is becoming more difficult to juggle. On the one hand there are the invites to dinners and premieres and generally cool things famous people do (very few of which I end up doing myself, I might add). On the other hand, there are the situations that are less "exciting" such as the giggling middle-aged women asking for his autograph in Sainsbury's while I'm there trying to work out which jumbo-sized sanitary pad will best contain my heavy period overnight.
Then there is the weirdness of seeing things written about you. Admittedly, most things about Brian have been very positive and most things about me have been more or less benign. I have, however, received the odd "unkind" email and seen some bitchy things about me on messageboards. The few nasty things are not so easy to brush off when I'm trying to come to terms with being a totally awesome woman masquerading as a reluctant housewife who spends 90% of her time on her own, is still breastfeeding and is desperately trying to work out what the hell this new post-baby body shape is all about. Let's just say that I'm not at the most confident place in my life right now so those kinds of things sting more than they normally would. If, however, I stand up for myself then I get even more bitchiness back. Apparently, "the wife" is just supposed to take it. This is the part of being married to a famous person that I'm not quite on top of yet.
I've never been the kind of woman that needs to spend an hour getting ready before nipping out to buy a pint of milk. To be blunt: I'm a scruffy bugger. Normally, I don't wear make-up, I'm usually in jeans and, well at the moment anyway, a breastfeeding T-Shirt, my hair tied back in a messy ponytail. These days when I go out with my husband for a walk or a coffee, everyone stares at us. Suddenly, I've started to feel very self-conscious. It won't be long before "they" start talking about what a frump my husband is married to. So now along with looking after both the kids, doing all the shopping, cooking, laundry, etc, I've got to put on freakin' make-up and wear something vaguely "nice" to go out of the house with him. If only to avoid having to read something about how I look "twice as old" as my husband... again.
The other night we attended a screening of one of his programmes to a sold-out audience filled with adoring young women. After the screening, there was a Q & A. I'd seen the programme many times so all I wanted to see was the Q & A. Our son luckily fell asleep in my arms just before the screening, so slept peacefully during it. The moment it ended, however, he woke up. As my husband sat down on stage, our son shouted out... So I left the auditorium and spent the next hour sitting with my son in the exit stairwell. And all I could think of was what a perfect analogy it was...
When I first met my husband he was wearing "studenty" t-shirts, spent hours playing Risk with friends and still had a single bed. He was and is, in my eyes, a massive nerd. And yet suddenly there are throngs of women, and men for that matter, who fancy him, are "in love" with him or even want to marry him cos I convinced him to wear more stylish clothes. I doubt they'd last long when they realise that he really is a bus-spotter at heart. But that is exactly why I love him.