Put the Princess on a Punch Clock?

Working mothers, we should all rage, rage against Kate Middleton. Apparently, by quitting her day job at her parents’ company, she’s let the side down. Let the sharpening of fingernails commence!

Here’s another woman of privilege who could be setting an example by maintaining a career,  but who has instead chosen a life of leisure. She has, as Katrina Onstad suggests in her Globe and Mail piece,  “[u]nwittingly stepped into the opt-out debate”; by leaving the workforce, Middleton has sided herself with other educated, powerful women (like, suggests Onstad, so many women who leave the workforce to raise their children) for whom work is best avoided.

Given that Middleton is 29 and childless, I question whether she stepped, or was pushed. And as a working mother, ask me if I care whether the princess works at paid employment or not. I’m too busy folding laundry at 11 pm to give a fig.

Middleton is one of maybe a handful of women across the world who live lives of such privilege that they, through birth or marriage, may hold the title of “princess”. She is everything I am not: childless, wealthy, thin, and blessed with all the time in the world (okay, 10 weeks and 1 day, but who’s counting?) to plan a dream wedding. I vaguely recall trying to interview caterers on my lunch hour while planning my own wedding. I would have given my left leg (its absence wouldn’t have been noticeable; my dress was long) for the luxury of that sort of free time. And I didn’t even have David Beckham and Posh Spice on the guest list. But I digress.

Middleton is, in short, no role-model of mine. But in her defense, if three billion people were going to be watching MY wedding, I’d probably have quit my job to worry about the details, too. And if I’d signed up for a lifetime of travel, charity balls and hospital openings, I wouldn’t be too concerned with the contents of the want-ads.

But wait. Kate’s a modern princess! Why, asks Onstad, can’t Kate be a working princess, too?

Why not, indeed. And if she chooses to, now, or in a few years,  she should. But why should she? Did we miss the part where it was stated that she’s a princess? As in, a woman living a life of privilege bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the lives of any of the women I know?

Apparently, being a princess, with all that entails (and Diana knows, most of us wouldn’t want that gig) is not enough. No, Middleton needs paid employment as well, even if she ends up donating half of that to charity. Why she wouldn’t just do charitable work — like other princesses — isn’t contemplated. Onstat seems to been in possession of a crystal ball of remarkable clarity, such that she has managed to both predict Middleton’s future (or lack thereof) and condemn her to a life of banality in one fell swoop.  Let this be a lesson to working women everywhere: don’t quit your day job.

I suppose, if Middleton dies tomorrow, her epitaph might be: “Putative Princess. Expected to accomplish nothing else. Sad, really”.

But let’s be clear: Kate Middleton, for all that she embodies the new, common-touch royalty, is quite simply  no longer one of us, and her getting a job won’t change that.   Oh, she is unremarkable in some ways – caught up as so many women are, in planning what is often thought of as one of the most important days of one’s life – but right or wrong, her contribution to society will never be measured by how many widgets she can pack into a box in five minutes.

Nor, for that matter, will her husband’s. But no one’s asking him to get a job at Tesco.

As for Michelle Obama, Onstad suggests that she is yet another one of those “spouses of powerful men, who give up their jobs and recede”. I like to think, however, that she’s just biding her time. In the spirit of compromise.

It’s  worked for some pretty powerful women. One might ask Hillary Clinton how it’s working for her.


10 thoughts on “Put the Princess on a Punch Clock?

    • It’s as if her fairy godmother might tap her on the shoulder, remind her that she’s *gasp* 29, and suggest that she just pack it in. She should first make sure the Thank You cards are all properly sent, though. Etiquette, and all that.

  1. I like this myself:

    And as a working mother, ask me if I care whether the princess works at paid employment or not. I’m too busy folding laundry at 11 pm to give a fig.

    Well done, Marcelle.

  2. If Michelle Obama is receding into the background, then why do I see her all of the time on the Disney Channel promoting healthy living by diet and exercise. I am beginning to wonder if Onstad has a family and a powerful husband and practices the careful art of compromise. I feel overly righteous bitterness a-brewing.

    • Oh my goodness, don’t get me started on this. I’m particularly intrigued by the logistics (from a purely academic point of view, mind) of having a Supreme Court Justice and the President of the United States share a bedroom. Would they keep a tally on the bedpost: one law passed for you, one law struck down for me?

  3. This was the post on the topic that actually resonated with me, because I’ve been perplexed at all the attention it has received. Maybe I’m missing something big but you have made very good points here IMHO, especially “I’m too busy folding laundry at 11 PM to give a fig.” (!!!)

    Considering that Kate is as yet neither a working nor nonworking mother, her role as a princess is likely to be very dissimilar to most of those entrenched in the mommy wars, I think that for every reason given that this is relevant to most of us working (or nonworking) moms in our daily lives, there is probably an equal and opposite reason to shrug it off. Whatever happened to “live and let live?” “Different strokes for different folks?”

    • Acorn, I agree totally. I refuse to buy into the idea that Middleton’s decision to “opt-out” of employment is at all relevant to the “mommy wars” (a concept and term I despise, by the way). Of all the reasons I can think of that she might want to (need to?) work, the idea that she might be setting a bad example for mothers by not working is not one I find compelling.

      Work? Don’t work? Doesn’t really matter to me.

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