Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Royal baby will deliver boost for status of motherhood

Here's one way to help boost the economy: retailers are hoping the arrival of Kate and William's Royal baby in July will stimulate the wobbly fortunes of the High Street.

A firm called Emma Bridgewater, which makes decorative china, was first out of the traps with a special mug celebrating the Royal baby two days after the pregnancy was announced.

Bridgewater is developing its range of Royal baby homeware to mark the event and, when more specifics are known, the products will carry the message "a new prince", "a new princess" or, if the betting goes Paddy Power's way, "a new pair of Royal twins".

Everyone is getting in on the act, since the retail research experts are predicting that Royal babies make more women broody - and that means more baby stuff to merchandise.

The birth of William and Kate's baby will certainly be a global event. There's special interest in it because, like the Swedish royals, whether girl or boy, the first-born will inherit.

This is considered a great advance for equality between women and men, though it's really just equality between princes and princesses, which is hardly relevant to most people's lives.

Celebrities such as Kate and William often represent ordinary lives writ large. That's why the retail experts are calculating that, as Kate becomes a mother, so will many of her peers in many places.

But if this baby brings a boom to the baby-product business, I hope it will also bring more status and honour to motherhood.

Too many young mothers still feel that they are under-achieving if they are at home looking after their children, rather than out in the workplace, "having it all".

The journalist Victoria White even wrote a book about this, claiming that Ireland "really hates motherhood", because it gives mothers so little esteem and support.

But this isn't particular to any one country: it is common to the Western world. And it really is a problem for young women in their fertile years.

They may want to be mothers, but how do they juggle it all? And how do they cope with the loss of self-esteem, which they inevitably feel, when their identity is no longer primarily that of their career?

The other side of the coin is true, too: women sometimes make sacrifices not to be mothers, because they cannot see how it will fit in with their other aspirations and vocations.

The writer Terry Prone has described how quickly she returned to work after the birth of her son. Within a matter of hours, after childbirth, it was back to the demands of her busy career again.

Terry always has been a bit of a superwoman. And that level of high productivity is characteristic.

But it set me thinking that this scramble to get back to work and "real life" was one of the mistakes made by our generation of feminists. I now think that women should take as much maternity leave as they possibly can - not just to recover from childbirth, but to enjoy their babies and enjoy being mothers.

One of the common regrets that surfaces when the grandmothers of my generation get together to chat is that we didn't spend enough time enjoying our babies when they were little.

It is reported by the Royal correspondents that Kate hopes to spend as much time as possible with her new-born.

Her diary has been cleared for 2014: no overseas tours, and plans for more charity work have been put on hold.

Even more than the boost to High Street merchandising, it may be that Kate will bring a boost to the status of mothering itself.

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