Up till this point, Prince Harry has hardly followed a conventional royal trajectory, so it’s hard to imagine his relationship with his future child and the way he chooses to parent will fit the typical royal bill.
I was unsurprised then, when reports came in yesterday that Harry had already requested paternity leave for when his and Meghan Markle’s first baby is born in just a few weeks. The Daily Express reported that Harry had told aides that he intended to take time off from his royal duties to fully embrace his new role as a Dad and support wife, Meghan.
“He doesn’t need to take paternity leave because he doesn’t work in the way most people do, but he thinks it’s a very modern dad thing to do,” alleged one source.
How good, right?
Well, before we get too excited, let’s be clear: Prince Harry will be taking just two weeks of parental leave upon the arrival of his first born. It’s not nothing, but it sure isn’t much.
In the UK, fathers are eligible to take one or two weeks of partially paid parental leave within the first 56 days following their child’s birth or adoption. In this sense, Harry is just following the social standard; positioning himself as a normal Dad following the accepted pathway.
But the thing is this: Prince Harry is not a normal Dad. His life is utterly abnormal. His every movement, every decision is tracked by the public eye. He has more power than he can shake a stick at.
As a role model, Prince Harry shouldn’t be maintaining the status quo when it comes to fatherhood. He should be throwing caution to the wind and doing something that will change the outlook for many new parents who follow after him.
Especially since we know that the current, global expectation that men work and women care, contributes to a persistent gender gap in leadership. Women and men enter the workplace on even footing and yet only 6.4% of CEOs are women at Fortune 500 companies. This gap is largely the bi-product of “the messy middle”– women taking time out of their careers mid-way through to raise children, and sacrificing their future dreams of leadership as a result.
Men are likewise missing out. There’s nothing to say that women are innately better parents. Indeed, many men would relish the opportunity to take time out of the workforce to raise their kids, but forfeit their chance because they have limited support from their employer, or their social network.
If Harry were to take a public stand right now to say he’d be sharing the primary caring load with Meghan or taking several weeks out to be there for his baby, he’d be changing the game.
I’m not assuming such a decision would be easy. No doubt the role of Prince, requires more than a crown and attending dainty tea parties. His work and duties are important, but as a modern royal– the people’s royal– Harry has the ultimate opportunity to shake up the establishment when it comes to parenting, and the ultimate opportunity to raise the benchmark for others.