Prince Harry and Meghan Markle faced the press two days after the arrival of their newborn son, Archie Harrison. This was obviously a memorable occasion for the world and for the new parents. However, it seems that their decision to overturn convention and have Prince Harry hold the baby has created something of a stir.
It’s 2019, so seeing a father hold his baby isn’t unusual. However, the fact that it was Prince Harry holding the baby has been seen as an indication that that Prince Harry, seventh in line to the British throne was planning to take on an equal role in the upbringing of his child.
Other royal births have followed normal traditions. For the births of each of their children Prince William and Kate Middleton took part in the obligatory photo-shoot, with Kate Middleton holding the baby on the steps outside the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital, London.
Although William did hold Prince George briefly, this was not the focus of the event. When Prince William and his brother Prince Harry were born their mother, Princess Diana, held them for the photographs on both occasions. Although Prince Charles did hold Prince William briefly, these photographs have largely disappeared from view.
A Break With Tradition
Perhaps the most significant thing about the situation with Prince Harry is that he held Baby Sussex throughout and it is being seen as a statement that he is not going to be hands on but an equal partner when it comes to childcare.
Considering Meghan Markle has already said that they do not intend to enforce rigid gender roles, it is likely that she will also be expecting a change to the tradition of the woman being the primary caregiver.
In 2019, this sort of statement should be unnecessary, especially considering the popularity of equal parenting and household responsibilities. The reality, however, is somewhat different.
Late in 2018, Piers Morgan publicly shamed Daniel Craig claiming that he had been “emasculated” when he was seen wearing his daughter in a baby carrier.
In the US, fathers are trying to get changes in the law so that baby changing facilities are available in the men’s public restrooms. This has been in place for women for a long time, but now dads are demanding the right to take equal responsibility for their children.
We still have a situation where an image of a man with three children in a grocery store can go viral. He is lauded a ‘hero’, yet women do this constantly and it simply goes by unnoticed.
Many mothers juggle work and childcare responsibilities and more and more are now describing the difficulty of having their male partner understand the mental load let alone share it! Things like doctors appointments, school admission, laundry, and meals are all aspects of parenting that add extra strain, and these remain almost exclusively in the woman’s domain.
Society should stop overly praising men for performing a basic role of fatherhood. It is not hard to hold a sleeping newborn for 5 minutes. Although it is a great image and Prince Harry seems to enjoy the role of doting father, it is not going to change the world. Although the image is a small step in the right direction, we cannot expect to see gender equality overnight.