Monday, May 09, 2011

The Duchess of Cambridge as a Housewife

Now the excitement of the Royal Wedding is over, no one seems to be able to understand that the new Duchess of Cambridge wants to take some time out to be a wife – a housewife even – and settle into her marriage. The press and web are full of articles expressing doubt as to how she will be able to handle it, and some are even suggesting it is a waste of her time. Articles like this one in The Telegraph which refrain from criticising her choice are few and far between.

It is a complete scandal that many people still consider it socially unacceptable to support your husband by making a home after marriage. We’ve gone from modern women having a choice, to modern women being expected to reject housewifery as a career, and being criticised, even ridiculed, if they don’t. At its best, in the beginning, feminism was supposed to be about choice, but the way it is regularly misinterpreted today often forces women to turn their backs on something they genuinely want to do.

While Karen Connolly of the Manchester Evening News does say,  “a woman who chooses to stay at home and raise her family is lucky and doing something completely worthwhile; that’s a situation where I believe everyone’s a winner” she goes on to express doubt as to what the Duchess of Cambridge is “going to do with her time – especially with William flying all over the show for days on end” and question how a relationship in which the woman stays home can be a relationship of equals.

First of all, being a housewife doesn’t mean you stay home all the time. That is a completely outdated stereotype. Furthermore, in a marriage that works, it’s always a relationship of equals, no matter who is bringing in the bacon. Just because you choose to be a housewife doesn’t mean you checked your brain cells at the door or that you are subservient to anyone. I have been a housewife for years, and my husband and I have always made decisions jointly, had equal control of our finances and neither of us has ever done anything that affects the family without consulting the other. Most of the other housewives I know, as well as those I meet through my writing, are in a similar situation.

NineMSN have also written a similar article, expressing incredulity that the Duchess of Cambridge has said she wants to live as “an ordinary RAF wife” for the moment. They report another source saying that she hopes to take a “supporting role”. However this source feels compelled to explain that she will “not be idle”, which is not surprising considering that NineMSN goes on to write “in choosing to not to be involved in any public activities in the foreseeable future, Kate has given her critics ammunition who have already accused the 29-year-old of being "work-shy".

I beg your pardon? There is plenty of work to be done in the role the Duchess has undertaken. It isn’t just about caring for the home – it’s a whole lot more than that. I’ve yet to meet a housewife who wasn’t genuinely busy, and I have yet to finish a day where I have completed every item on my list of things I would like to do. Seriously, there is a more to being a housewife than meets the eye. In addition, the Duchess of Cambridge will need to fit everything she does round public engagements and official royal visits, several of which are being planned in the near future. Not to mention that next year is the Queen’s Jubilee Year when all the Royals will be expected to be heavily involved in public events and celebrations. I don’t think idleness will be a problem for her.

Soon enough the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be thrust into the limelight on a daily basis, and although it will hopefully be many years until it happens, one day they are destined to be King and Queen. And that is when normality, in whatever form, will most likely be difficult, if not impossible to achieve. So if the Duchess of Cambridge wants to enjoy a couple of fairly quiet years while she can, acclimatising to her role and to marriage (which is often challenging no matter how much in love you are or how fairy tale the romance), then why not? What right does anyone have to question her? And won’t it be lovely, when the Duchess of Cambridge does become Queen, to have a Royal Consort who has shopped in ordinary grocery stores, balanced a budget (just because you are well off doesn’t mean there isn’t a budget!) and organised a home?

When will so many of us understand that for the moment, aside from official engagements, the Royal Couple want to be left alone by all but their family and friends except when they are on official duties? Why is it so hard for so many to grasp the concept that ‘in the public eye’ does not mean ‘public property’?

I truly hope the furor will die down and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be allowed to enjoy a few years in relative peace. As much as we love to see them out and about, there will be plenty of joint public engagements and official occasions for that. If concentrating on being a housewife is what the Duchess of Cambridge wants to do, I hope she will be as happy and fulfilled doing it as I am. I also hope that it will encourage other women who want to, and whose family finances allow it, to actually consider being housewives once again and to feel good about their choice. Perhaps it might also encourage some elements of society to stop judging those of us who are housewives.

Anyway, from what I can see, this newlywed housewife looks very happy indeed.

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