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Wednesday 7 December 2016

'If I were Kate I'd have as many kids as I physically could'

The financial cut-off point for a lot of women these days is two children. Oh to be Kate, for whom money is not a barrier and help is in abundance. We asked a mum of two to reflect on giving it one more throw of the dice

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, holds her baby daughter outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, in London
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, holds her baby daughter outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, in London
Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, appear with their baby daughter outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, in London, Britain May 2, 2015. The Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a girl on Saturday, the couple's second child and a sister to one-year-old Prince George. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
royal
royal
Carol Hunt with her children

Who'd be a princess these days? What was, in days of old, a pretty cushy number, has now been turned, thanks to the magic of celebrity, into a 24/7 public relations job with no time off for good behaviour.

Most of us, those who will admit it and many who won't dare, have spent the past week keeping abreast of the Duchess of Cambridge's maternity schedule.

Yes, of course, we should all have far more interesting things to do, like walk the dog or clean the kitchen, but, oddly, even in a republic which spent centuries trying to get away from 'all that stuff', most of us are still captivated by the spell of royalty. And, in particular, by royal babies.

From where the rest of us stand, princesses seem to have a charmed and privileged life. Look at lovely Kate; she has the best of everything - fabulous homes, everything money can buy, good looks, a loving husband, a warm family and friends galore.

She'll never have to worry about paying the electricity bill or getting her son into a "good" school.

But, like all historical princesses, she has one big job to do - and woe betide her if she fails to do it. That job, of course, is to produce an heir; which Kate did in excellent middle class "deliver the goods that were bought-and-paid-for" manner.

Even though the rule had been changed to accommodate the possibility that her first-born might be a girl - Kate had enough of an understanding of tradition and history to know that producing a boy first would keep everyone happy, and that is what she managed to do.

The law might have changed in a quite revolutionary manner to allow the first-born girl to succeed to the throne, but Kate wasn't going to be as vulgar as to be the first royal mother to set that precedent.

Now she has, in her no nonsense competent way, produced the first royal princess since Anne, daughter of the queen. Harper Beckham has officially been dethroned.

Prince George's little sister, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, is now going to have to accept her position - whether she likes it or not - as the most important, celebrated, doted-over little girl on the planet.

Everything she does, says, wears, etc will be discussed, dissected, approved or disapproved of. She will always wonder if her every word and action is being recorded for uploading on social media; whether her friends are loyal; if people actually like her for herself or for her royal status.

Her life is not - nor ever will be - her own. As I said, who'd be a princess these days?

Which is why I hope that this is only the start of the royal babies. In our more democratic times, royal families have often been criticised as being an unnecessary burden on a nation.

They cost a lot to keep. They all need homes and castles and security, and lots of cash to keep them "in the manner to which they were born". Up until Kate arrived on the scene and entertained us all with her determined wooing of Prince William, the royals were seen as a drain on the state; after the manner in which they treated Diana, that most entertaining royal of all, many ordinary UK citizens began to wonder what on earth was the point of them?

The modern point of royalty, of course, is as a rather posh reality-TV show. 'Keeping up with the Middleton-Windsors' may not run off the tongue as easily as Keeping up with the Kardashians, but burrow under the bling and antique diamonds and, essentially, the two families are engaged in the same type of business: entertainment.

Which is why I hope Kate is only starting in the reproduction game.

If she doesn't want George and his little sister Charlotte to shoulder unremitting pressure and responsibility for the royal circus on their own, she needs to gather a big brood around her to share the limelight.

feminist

I know, it may not sound very feminist to say it, but Kate's job is to produce children.

She has already done so to order; a boy and a girl. In theory, her work is now done. She could retire from the royal reproduction line now and enjoy her life as mother of the future king. And yet... Why should she?

If us modern women were to be honest with ourselves, how many of us would admit that we'd like to have/had more children? We can't/couldn't, of course. Children are expensive.

Career-minded women (or those of us who need to put bread on the table) can't take all that time out for pregnancy and maternity leave and all those hours that are spent minding and caring for and loving children.

Children are a big investment. They are actually the only investment you will ever make that will cost you more and more each year and that you will never, ever see a financial return on.

Kids, in essence, are a luxury. You can only have as many as you can afford. These days, most of us settle for two. Three, if we're feeling lucky. Four, if we completely lose the run of ourselves. Anything more than four and you're either very rich - or very poor.

Large families used to be seen as the preserve of the religious poor. It was evidence of too much blind faith, a lack of contraception or self-control, or a clever ruse to get as much child benefit as possible.

Big families were common in rural and inner-city Ireland. But that was back when people relied on children to care for them in their old age, when it was common for children to die young and you had a many as you could, as quickly as possible, before your luck ran out.

Then we discovered contraception, college fees and the old-age pension, and suddenly, big families were as fashionable as herpes. But now, oddly, they're back.

Suddenly successful career women are having lots of children.

fertile

Why? Because not only does a bevy of children scream that you can afford nannies, cleaners, school fees, holidays etc, it also shows that you are wonderfully, fabulously healthy and fertile. Who can buy that, eh?

It's been called the Victoria Beckham effect. Not only is she gorgeous, married to a hunk and carving out her own amazingly successful fashion career after being a member of one of the most iconic girl group ever, but she's also a normal mum to four lovely kids.

While the rest of us do our best to handle two kids and a mundane job that pays the bills, Vicky manages to pop out a fourth little cherub - in between getting a New York runway collection together and keeping her size-zero figure - quicker than you can say: "I'll pay the childminder to live in for the next six years."

"For me, it's no different than it is for other working mothers out there," said Victoria in a recent interview. Yeah right Vicky, tell it to the marines!

There's always the welfare debate: that for some people it may be in their financial interest to have a lot of children.

But the vast majority of us have to be content with a small family. I have two children. Most of my contemporaries also have one or two children.

The odd few may have three - and they acknowledge that it's tough to get by financially. But that's all the children we want, we insist.

We're not going to be slaves to our ovaries and our families the way our grandmothers were. We're liberated women. Not baby-making machines.

But, if I were to be totally honest with myself, I'd have to admit that if I were in a position like Kate Middleton, where I could have the best medical attention, health experts, nutritionists, cooks, cleaners, childcare, nannies, private schools and all the perks that come with being a royal, I'd probably have as many children as I could physically manage.

Why not? Just imagine not having to worry about cost or childcare, or maternity leave or college fees or any of the basic ordinary day-to-day issues that arise when the mention of another child arises?

There's a lot to be said for big families - the warmth, the camaraderie, the sharing, the support.

And if you're born a royal, like the newest addition, little baby Charlotte, then surely it's ultimately better to be part of a big gang of siblings that can share the burden of constant media attention and scrutiny.

Don't tell anyone one I said it - it will ruin both my feminist and my republican credentials - but I hope that Kate is only getting started on the baby front.

For successful powerful women, big families are back en vogue. Kate has nothing to lose, and everything to gain by surrounding herself with a big brood of royal children.

And let's admit it, republican, democrat or nationalist, we all love a royal baby.

carol hunt

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