I have gotten several requests in the last week to republish my posts on Kate and motherhood. I have written a number of pieces over the years, but this one is from August 14, 2019, and I think it is the most spot on for the type of article you all have been asking about. Here you go:
I have been thinking about this post for a long time. Last week, the Telegraph ran an article about Kate with the headline Princess of Wales-in-Waiting: How Kate Got Her Groove Back which proved to be the nudge I needed to finally sit down and pen these thoughts. The Telegraph article itself is an excellent piece that highlights the remarkably successful royal Kate has become, and I highly recommend you give it a read. The headline (likely not written by the author) bugged me, and it reminded me of the theme of a number of other articles we have seen in the past year and a half. Many articles where the substance, not just the headline, suggested that Kate has only recently started to get it right, to get her “mojo” on as she begins to unveil more of her charitable initiatives. These other articles, and the headline of the Telegraph’s otherwise great article, all push the same theme–Kate is only a successful royal to the extent she is ramping up her public engagements and exposure. I think that is all wrong.
While all of these articles are right to laud Kate’s initiatives, and many make valid points about how successfully she has grown into her role within the royal family, the idea that Kate has turned a corner, or righted her ship, or gotten back on track is completely wrong. Kate hasn’t “gotten her groove back,” she never got out of her groove. Her life is unfolding just as she hoped and worked for all those years ago, and just as she has continued to craft it. Her grace and gravitas are not the result of a change in course, but the natural result of her own, long-standing strategy for royal life.
Many of the articles we have seen refer back to the Duchess’s “Waity Katie” days, which if you are new to the block (or not even that new, because at this point a reference to “Waity Katie” is a serious throw-back), refer to the fact that Kate dated William for many years before they married. Some sniping socialites, and a number of tabloids and papers, too, dubbed her “Waity Katie.” All number of people were intent on shaming Kate for putting her relationship first. Kate received harsh criticism for not more aggressively pursuing a “real” career and, instead, working jobs that allowed her flexibility to adapt her schedule to accommodate William’s military commitments. To be blunt, people criticized her for obviously wanting to marry William and arranging her affairs to maximize the chances of success in that respect.
To which I reply, so what if she did? So what if Kate fell in love with William and decided to clear the decks and make the success of that relationship her top priority? Does anyone want to raise their hand and say it didn’t work out well for her? She is happily married to her handsome prince, she has beautiful homes (plural), darling children, and the option to pursue activities outside her home when those projects fit her family’s schedule. She has complete flexibility to pursue charitable work, aka her career, and also raise her children herself. Sounds like the dream to me. What’s wrong with setting your sights on your preferred life and pursuing it single-mindedly?
Since their marriage, Kate has been vilified for not throwing herself into a frenzy of royal activity. Instead, in the first few years, she retreated to the relative seclusion of Anglesey to start her family. Even as the couple eased more and more into their increasingly active royal duties, Kate has been continually criticized for not working enough. Ludicrously, there are some who even cite her three children, not as the blessings she clearly cherishes, but as excuses that permit her to skirt her work commitments! (You can’t make this stuff up, I’m telling you!)
What so many of these critics won’t accept is that Kate and William have made a conscious choice. They laid a careful plan. They have a strategy to achieve both happy personal lives for themselves and their children, and successful tenures as senior royals, and ultimately a successful reign as king and queen. We are not seeing Kate get her mojo back (which is code for finally conforming to societal standards for women working), rather we are seeing yet another stage of her strategy unfolding. This is just the next scene, with several already played, and a number of acts to follow.
The Duke and Duchess were crystal clear that they would slowly ease into their roles, that their family would always be their first priority, and that intense, full-time work would only come in time—they have, after all, quite a bit of time, a lifetime, in fact. The Telegraph article makes this point when it notes that:
William and Kate both insist that they drive their children to school and nursery themselves; drop-offs and pick-ups are “sacred” time, and staff know it would have to be “a very high bar” to disturb it. “She’s a very hands-on mother,” said one insider.
Kate has always prioritized being a wife and mother, and it is part of what has made her the smashing success she has been in the Royal Family. To repeat. We aren’t seeing Kate getting her mojo back; we aren’t seeing Kate finally figuring out her priorities; we are seeing the fruit of her strategy, the results of her game plan, the wisdom of her choices. Kate always knew what she wanted and understood the best order in which to pursue her life plans. From her first focus on marrying William, to their decision to kick off their first few years of marriage in relative privacy, to her slow transition to working royal, to her current emphasis on her children, Kate has always been clear on what she wanted. She has been very happy to support William and raise her family and play her part within the family. It’s this sense of purpose and personal identity that has endeared her to the British people and to her husband’s family.
Today, society lauds as a chief virtue the ability to “be your own person” and “think for yourself” and “stand out from the crowd.” I have found this societal mission statement is little more than a lie. The truth is that society does not welcome those who really chart their own course, and the overwhelming majority of people swim with the stream. Most who are hailed as bold and forward leaning are only bold in the direction in which they know the majority will agree and applaud them. One of the reasons I have always admired Kate is that she truly is her own woman. Kate really does live the life she chooses, and often she must swim upstream to do it. Since she started dating William she has made the decisions that suited her goals, and pursued the future of her own dreams, regardless of the naysayers, or the abuse from the public or media. She wanted to get married, she wanted to have children, she wanted and wants to focus more on her family than her “career.” So she does.
Today, women don’t like to openly admit they want to marry, and we are, truthfully, expected to pursue a career first, and balance family second. Obviously I have no problem with women pursuing careers, but I do have a problem with being told that we must. The reality is that it is quite counter-cultural for Kate to have made the choices she has. She has actually stood out from the crowd, bucked the system, and danced to the tune of her own tango—with her handsome prince. And society has not applauded her for it. She has been cast as lazy, vapid, a social climber, and a trophy wife. Society seems to only truly celebrate Kate when she pushes back into the spotlight, back into “career-centered” activities.
But, we shouldn’t steal from Kate her sweet victory. The victory of a woman who knew what she wanted and pursued it first, despite the pressure to conform. Someone who wanted motherhood more than “mojo,” and who put that before everything else. Kate’s beautiful persona today (a blend of beauty, maturity, circumspection, empathy and authenticity) are the result of her grounding in who she is and who she has always been. It’s the source of her success. Now, having achieved the life she wanted for her heart, she can–in the right season for her life plan–continue to develop her professional track. But, always on her own terms. That is what we should celebrate.