Saturday 24 August 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Even royals feel the strain of parenthood'

 

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walk away with their baby son, who was born on Monday morning, during a photocall in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walk away with their baby son, who was born on Monday morning, during a photocall in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS
Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney

The flight home was delayed, which meant several hours hanging around the airport gate, waiting for news of a departure.

By the time we eventually boarded, it was pushing 10pm, and the parents in the front row already looked exhausted.

Their two fractious young children, a baby boy of about a year, and his toddler sister, were now up way beyond their bedtime and teetering on the brink of total meltdown.

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iPads, treats and endless hugs and kisses were deployed, but it was no use. An hour into the four-hour flight, both children were howling inconsolably, taking it in turns to emit screeches at increasingly ear-splitting decibels, until eventually, they wore their tiny selves out, and much to everyone's relief, fell asleep, one on each parent's shoulder.

By now, both mum and dad were ashen-faced, frazzled with their heroic attempt to soothe the children while shooting increasingly apologetic glances at their fellow passengers, many of whom were visibly furious.

My heart went out to them. The fact that this couple were exceptionally well dressed, and had a nanny in tow, seated helplessly in the row behind them, had made absolutely no difference to their journey from hell.

It turns out having hired help on hand is of little use to screaming children who just want mum and dad for comfort. That's why parenthood is the great leveller, a fact tacitly acknowledged by Prince William this week as he welcomed his little brother Harry to the 'no sleep' club.

I'm sure some people rolled their eyes and thought, surely the royals have plenty of Norland nannies on hand to do the night shifts - and plenty of day shifts too - for them? I'm not so sure. While little Archie will undoubtedly enjoy luxuries other kids could only dream of, no nanny can do a nightfeed.

And at the coalface of new parenthood, the rollercoaster of emotions - not to mention the 24-hour job that is worrying if baby is eating, sleeping and breathing - is the unique privilege of the mother and father.

Happily, though, no amount of money can take away from the pure joy of the job: witness that look on Harry's face as he told the world that his son had arrived safely, and the giggling antics of the new parents as they introduced their little bundle to the press yesterday.

They might always have been rich, but they will never have felt richer than they did this week.

We can no longer blame social media

Presumably even Harry and Meghan will also one day find themselves fretting over Baby Sussex's excessive mobile phone use, in the same manner as modern parents do every day.

But maybe not for much longer; a major new study, published this week, has suggested that time spent on social media actually has little to no major effect on teenagers' mental health or happiness.

Prof Andy Przybylski, co-author of the research from Oxford University, put it bluntly: "99.75pc of a young person's life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media."

This is good news, surely, but it also leaves us with more questions than answers.

If we can't blame Silicon Valley for rising levels of teenage anxiety, then who can we blame?

Perhaps we will start to need looking closer to home? That might be a bridge too far.

As one parent said to me emphatically when dealing with an especially challenging teenager: "We have considered all the options, and we have decided that it's definitely YouTube's fault."

Irish Independent

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