The other day I bumped into an old work collegaue at the beach. We chatted, our conversation turned to work and they were surprised when I said I had taken the year off. Intially, I explained my decision as it was – based on my desire to be with my children. Following the silence I began to pad out the reason making which fed my decision; filling in what I thought were gaps, with justifications based on the pandemic, my dissatisfaction with the education system and a need to reestablish my place within it.
This seemed to generate more response and so eased what I thought was tension but I came away annoyed with myself. Why did I do that? Was it not enough just to say it as it was – I want to be with my children.
Why did I feel the need to provide an explanation?
I considered this in light of a previous article, Motherhood and Society, discussing the importance we attach in our culture to being stay at home Mum’s. My thoughts then wandered to Meghan and Harry and the initial decision that they made to step back from Royal Life. I remember when they made the announcement and I had nodded to myself. A strong woman empowered, willing and wanting to raise her child herself, away from wider world’s expectations. A woman who is prepared to stand up for her child and how she perceived Motherhood. Admiring her choice I wrote about it and then of course I made my own choices regarding what I felt appropriate for my family’s life. I half kept an eye out for how they were getting on, interested in how it might pan out for them.
Then came the aftermath of their decision in all it’s manifestations, the press articles, the interview with Oprah, the book, potential show, podcast and I felt cross, as apart from anything else, in doing all of this, they seemed to have removed themselves from their original intention.
It’s difficult to avoid emotion laid commentary on this. Social media is spilling with often vile opinion. The couple in return have offered more fuel. Reading through some of it, I do not think it is for us to discuss whether or not Meghan had a miscarriage and certainly not to question how she grieves. Neither is it possible to know , through endless Twitter threads who is arguing with who and for what reason. The conversation, in so far as you can call it that is a collection of venemous statements regarding aspects of their life. The only hard facts seem to be are that they gave up their role, moved to the US, did an interview, released a book, are about to release another book and have discussed a tv deal. Everything else is speculative.
What stands out though is the lack of reference to the loss of the original intention. Which is a shame because, the intention was admirable. To raise their child how they wished, away from the public eye and by themselves rather than as is traditional in the royal family, in a shared way and very much in the public domain. It must have been tricky, especially for Harry. Harry is the person whose life has unequivocally been turned upside down.
Unfortunately, though they have not achieved a life outside the public domain as they suggested. Instead, they have very much placed themselves in the media spotlight seeking, it seems to follow it where ever they can , no channel left untouched. What is more unfortunate, rather than celebrating their lives with their young family they appear to want to share personal information about their past which can only be interpreted as an attack. It could and has also been interpreted as the real reason for their decision, rather than as they suggested, to raise their children in the way that they wished to. Which is perhaps what people have reacted to, the realisation that they have been deceived.
Or have they?
Reflecting on my sudden anxiety at the beach – that I was not understood, that I was being flimsy and perhaps had gone slightly mad at giving up what was actually shaping up to be a promising career- perhaps Meghan and Harry reacted in the same way. They paniced at silence and then the rush of opinion and rather than sit with their decision, they padded it out.
While I believe that Harry has struggled with his family and there are some unhealthy relations and perhaps some difficult situations emerged for Harry and Meghan I just wonder about the origins of their tell all resolve. Perhaps they felt the need like I did at the beach to justify themselves and their decision to the listening world. Perhaps they felt their original reason for giving it all up, wasn’t enough. Perhaps we felt it wasn’t enough and in probing we prompted further defense. So they expanded their reasoning.
They didn’t need to. Their original explaination was sufficient.
Or perhaps they don’t care. Perhaps it does make them feel better. I don’t know and neither do you. The only thing I do know is that I did admire their decision but I am not so keen on the follow ups.
Smallest starts school in two days and I have waited for the follow up feeling to my decision to hit me; for the what did you do, what were you thinking voice to emerge regarding my own decision. However I remain still and feel quietly confident that my decision was exactly what we needed as a family. Perhaps it’s time for a bit of verbal stillness and reflection for the Sussexes.
Of course I can say that now with hindsight – hindsight is a wonderful thing. Particularly when it allows you to say that you were able to judge the needs of your children correctly. It is tricky though to always think carefully about the impact of decisions on children. In Meg and Harry’s case theirs will live in the shadow of their attempts at self branding and the reputation that they muster.
I do genuinely hope that when hindsight catches up with Meghan and Harry , separately or together, that their hindsight it isn’t too hard for them to face.