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Can Kate Put George Ahead of Job?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

N.B. This post is a follow-up to the original piece, Does Kate Really Work...Enough? I read all responses to that post, and appreciated all the perspectives. Although, I have plenty of opinions on many issues, I do my best to keep this blog and my Twitter feed as free of politics as possible, so it can be a recreational zone without unnecessary tension. I felt that a stronger clarification was needed in fairness to Kate and to make my position crystal clear. But, in an effort to stop this ballooning into a debate that I would rather not get too sidetracked by, the comments will be closed on this post. At some point, I think there is a wisdom to agreeing to disagree. I hope everyone understands. We will be back to normal on Thursday!

When all accidentals—that is all non-essential elements of the argument—are stripped away, the fundamental disagreement seems to be whether choosing a stay-at-home situation is a legitimate choice for a woman to make. I will be very clear on my position: I think it is, and I am going to lay out why I think that Kate should be treated fairly and equally on this issue. 

Kate is a princess. I like to stress that here on this blog. She is a princess! But, she is not Princess Catherine. She is Princess William of Wales. She is an HRH, a duchess, a countess, and a baroness. She is a Princess of the UK, but she is all of these titles because she is married to Prince William. She married a royal and she now holds the commensurate titles of her spouse. William is the reason she lives in Kensington Palace, and the reason she has a security detail; William is the reason any of us have ever heard of her! William was born to a job, not Kate. William works pretty hard and will only work harder and harder as time moves on. He was born royal, he will die royal; his duty and honor are inextricably bound with public service and the monarchy.

Kate did not apply to be a royal, she didn’t provide a resume on which she proved her ability to connect with people, her possible popularity ratings, her talent to turn a skirt to the best advantage of the British fashion industry, her fertility and ability to bear an heir. It wasn't a job interview! Whereas Henry II may have married Eleanor of Aquitaine for a myriad of tactical and political reasons, the world has evolved. Out of all the women who were doubtlessly preening themselves for royal attention, William married Kate because he loved her. He married her because he wanted her for his wife, his life partner, his soul-mate. Kate gave up many things to marry William, and she gained many privileges, but she didn’t give up the sacred right of a woman to decide her child’s upbringing: intensive nanny time or hands-on mom. 

The various trappings of royalty and position might cloud the debate momentarily, but Kate is still a wife and now very importantly a mother, and she has the freedom that every other woman in society, whose finances are not a hindrance, has: she gets to decide to what extent she works and to what extent she stays with George. 

William had a mother who loved him. Diana fought to provide him with as normal an upbringing as possible; she did her best to give him love and stability. But, Diana was a busy woman and William knows firsthand what it is to have nannies play a significant role in the home. He turned out well, but no one can look to the heartbreaking story of the late Princess of Wales and say it was all it could have been.

Kate has never given an intimate interview, other than the engagement interview, but since she has been a public figure for over ten years now, we certainly have had some insights into her upbringing. In an "interview" for her family's Party Times blog, she revealed various childhood memories of birthday parties, fancy-dress occasions, and home-baking:

From Pippa’s Celebrate we can draw a picture of a very close, warm, and intimate family situation.  We can easily see that Carole was obviously a very hands-on mother. From detailed and labor intensive birthday parties to the carefully maintained clothes and meticulously sewn nametags that peers say set the Middletons apart at school, the picture drawn of Carole is of a mother entirely wrapped up in the welfare, happiness, and success of her children. Given Kate’s story started in a small house in West Berkshire and has led her through the turmoil of her dating years to a position  only steps away from being future queen of England, Carole did something right. It seems very likely that Kate will want to give George a similar childhood, filled with memories of special parties and interactive time with his mom.

Both William and Kate want their children to be raised as normally as possible given the circumstances. Diana did her best giving Wills an idea of normal, but Kate was normal and no doubt has a strong sense of how she wants to raise George.

Some women would go crazy staying in the home. Some women must work due to financial necessity. When financial burdens don't dictate otherwise, women should be free to choose on this very personal and very important issue. No one should feel they must stay home, and no one should feel they must go back to work. No one judges the women who choose to balance their work and their family, and it is hypocritical to judge women who take a different path when the option is open to them. Kate continues to work for her various charities, she continues to support William and attend events by his side, but there has been a shift.

Kate has a child now. The most precious and wonderful blessing: a little life in her care. Another human dependent on her love, her attention, and her time. Kate is the most important person in George's world. Someone will form that soul and shape that personality. Someone's influence will be the dominant force that moulds that child. Should Kate share a little of that role with another woman? Should she be forced to share a lot of that role with another woman? No one has the right to tell Kate that she, his mother, can't be that primary person if that is what she wants. Every mother has a challenge to nurture her charge and to give her child the best possible chance of stability, happiness, and success. Kate’s job is magnified a hundredfold given the unusual position her little prince holds. Raising him like any other normal child will make the difficult job of a mother all the harder and more time-consuming. 

Kate’s job, her duty, is to fulfill her obligations to that little boy and any siblings he might have. The world is full of hurt and broken people, and I know that Kate wants to be part of making a difference for those people. I know this because she has said it more than once, and I know it because I can recognize a genuine smile and genuine enthusiasm. But, Kate cannot and should not put anything before her duty to raise her child surrounded by her love, affection, affirmation, and to keep her marriage healthy and strong. She has a job to make sure her choices or a misplaced sense of duty don't contribute a few more broken and hurt people to society.  She has absolutely every right to pour her energy and direct her focus inward to the sanctity of her private life. 

Soon enough, George and his siblings will be off to their prestigious schools, and Kate will still be radiantly beautiful, wildly popular, and ready to draw the international spotlight on many worthy causes. But, only after she has not just produced an heir (and spares?) but after she has assured that the monarchy is stable in the hands of child who will grow to be a boy, who will mature into a reasonable, normal, modern, and confident man. The monarchy will benefit in the long run from Kate's choice to focus on her child.

Kate Glows at William as She Complete Her Vows at Their Wedding
She owes herself happiness—a stable marriage and fulfillment as a mother to her standards. She owes her child the best she can give him in their circumstances. In actual fact, Kate made a vow to William and to God:
Catherine Elizabeth, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together according to God's law in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
Nowhere did it say “to put others before my family.” That seems to be the push. Kate doesn’t work enough, Kate should be out shining light on the plight of strangers. Kate does do that, and will continue to do that, and her workload will grow as the years slip by, but it is ludicrous to argue that Kate must prioritize strangers over what are in fact the two most important duties on her heart right now: William and George and the family unit that they are together.

Can women have it all? It is an old debate that continues to rage. And at some point, every mother has to decide. She must weigh the facts and heated testimonies, and then she has to roll the dice and choose. And she has to live with her choice and their outcomes. People are different, situations vary, perhaps there is no one right answer. 

I will tell you this. For all her titles, wealth, and opportunities, Kate is still a woman, just like any other woman. Faster than she can imagine, her tiny little babies will be adults, and I don't get the impression she is a woman who intends to risk any kind of regret. She will fit her public engagements in as she can, and I am confident with increasing regularity, but first and foremost she will focus on her most precious little charge. To you and to me, she is a glamorous royal, a woman who will be a queen, a fashion icon, a role model to girls everywhere. But, Kate is now a mother, and in her heart, that will be her defining role and her lasting legacy.  Expect her to conduct herself accordingly.