Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
There’s this photo that’s been doing the rounds on social media of Duchess Kate immaculate in royal blue, squatting elegantly (only she can do that), holding daughter Charlotte at hip to meet son George at eye-level. The whole family is beautifully dressed to match so the only thing not immaculate in the photo is Kate’s glare at George, with slightly gritted teeth.
The photo was taken on a visit to Canada, on the airport tarmac. The family appears to have just gotten off the plane, formalities were about to commence, and Kate obviously needed George to hold it together. The photo was a hit on mommy-media being identifiable given ‘even a princess’ had to resist losing her shit at her kid in public.
The popularity of the photo intrigued me. Whilst it was fairly clear Kate was trying to mommy-message George something with her stare-y eyes and stern look, how do people know that was her resisting losing her shit?
Maybe that was losing her shit, after all she’s a princess trained to be in the public eye most days. Her ‘public’ is global, so even if her kid doesn’t follow protocol, I’m sure she knows going mommy-missile ballistic on an heir to the most famous throne in the world isn’t an option. (I, in contrast, might be raising wannabe-princesses, but my ‘public’ is just the grocery store or the playground here in Shanghai where half a dozen people are screaming anyway so no biggie if I start too).
What fascinated me more about the photo, was that after a long-haul flight, she could step off the plane in high heels, walk down the air-stairs holding Charlotte then squat (elegantly) to talk to George. And she didn’t fall over, neither did anything fall off, as her clothes, hair, make-up and hat were all still intact. I don't know how she does it but I guess that’s why she’s a duchess and I’m not.
The photo got me thinking about the remarkable pressure some women face. Not only are you meant to work (hey, being a princess is still ‘work’), you have to raise your kids, run the household (or kingdom), not publicly lose your shit and also look princess perfect. Even if you are not working outside the home, or a princess, let’s face it, you still work, are expected to not lose your shit and look good.
I had a friend in New Zealand who once left her house (in suburbia) with her three kids in track pants and no make-up. She met another mother at the supermarket who said ‘What’s this? Did you get kicked out of the house?’ She wore at least lip-gloss the next time she went out. So what gives? Do we as mothers do this to ourselves or is it society? Where do these expectations come from?
It is now cooling down and being from Singapore, I find it difficult to leave the house let alone be cold weather-dressed by 7.10am for the school bus. I told someone the other day, that my winter plan was to do the drop-off in pyjamas and robe, as there was no time to do breakfast, battle my toddler (who is generally opposed to getting dressed), get my older daughter out the door and also be decent myself. What footwear did she think was warm yet convenient to slip on with this ensemble?
She stared at me then said she knew a mother who woke at 5am to ‘put on her face’ everyday. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but I remain unresolved on footwear and less confident about my pyjama plan. All I know is that waking at 5am everyday would seriously make me lose my shit.