British taxpayers have been up in arms as of late. It seems that Prince William, second in line for the throne, keeps an unorthodox schedule. While William pilots an air ambulance and appears at public events in his capacity as prince, he does neither full-time, and this has led to charges of laziness.
It’s understandable that people might view things that way—especially when their hard-earned tax dollars are bankrolling Prince William’s comfortable lifestyle—but I’d propose that there’s another way to look at this situation. It’s quite possible that rather than being lazy, the prince is using “stealth” tactics to spend more time with his family.
Consider that the UK’s Express reported that in the words of one source close to him, “William does not want to be an absent father because he knew what it was like growing up with one.” This builds upon Prince William’s own comments in a recent documentary, when he “revealed how fatherhood has made him ‘a lot more emotional’ before admitting that he fears not being there for Prince George and Princess Charlotte.”
To test my theory that the prince is stealthily devoted to his family, I reached out to Beth K. Humberd, Assistant Professor of Management at UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business. Asked about her take on the prince’s unorthodox work schedule, Humberd emailed:
It reminds me of findings from our research on fatherhood and work: we [Humberd, Northeastern University’s Jamie Ladge, and Boston College’s Brad Harrington] found that when fathers incorporate flexibility into their work lives, they tend to do so through informal and “stealth” methods, rather than going through formal channels to request flexible arrangements at work. [Boston University’s] Erin Reid’s work also confirms this same dynamic; she finds men “pass” in this way, in order to maintain the ideal worker image that organizations (and society) expect them to be. If we can assume that William’s reduced time at work and in royal engagements is because he is spending more time with his family, it seems that these research findings are holding true here: he is managing his work and life responsibilities through more “stealth” methods.
As Jamie Ladge told me in an interview last year, “If men need to leave work early, they just do it. There’s only an issue when there’s a perception that it’s taken too far.” It seems that the public believes William’s taken things too far. However, that conclusion is based on anonymous reports that the prince is disappearing to “live the lifestyle of a gentleman farmer, like his friends,” not to tend to his children.
If I’m right, and the British public is (largely) wrong, I would strongly urge Prince William to follow Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s lead and speak out publicly about the value he places on being a present and involved father. That’s a noble motivation, and by explaining it, William can both repair his reputation and begin an important public conversation.
Any forthcoming statement should be more direct than William’s mere allusion to the challenge of work-life balance in an interview last summer, when he remarked: “Obviously at some point there is going to be a lot more pressure and responsibility from the other side of my life, but at the moment I'm juggling the two of them and a young family and I'm enjoying the challenge.”
The prince should be vocal for three reasons. First, his current “stealth” strategy is clearly no longer working. Despite being “the first senior heir to the throne to work in a civilian job” and donating his $60,000 a year salary to charity, he is being widely criticized. Some Britons are cross that William skipped the BAFTA awards ceremony in favor of a visit to his in-laws, to whom he is reportedly quite close. Really, which is more important to the fabric of a nation—an evening with glamorous strangers at yet another awards show, or spending quality time with one’s own family?
Second, William can open up a conversation about the unique challenges facing fathers. There’s no reason why men shouldn’t view their lives as a series of seasons, as many women do. A growing number of women recognize that we “can have it all,” if we’re willing to emphasize family and career at different life stages. While he wants to continue doing work outside the home, William could make the case that at this stage in his life, his priority is being present for his children. As George and Charlotte age, William can gladly represent his family at more public events, as his grandparents currently do.
Last, William has a huge opportunity to help parents everywhere. As a working father with two young children, he knows firsthand how hard it can be to juggle obligations at work and at home. Why not use his royal platform to connect with people across the British Commonwealth? By speaking out publicly, the prince could shift the discussion on parenting, potentially leading to some concrete changes that would help all parents. William could argue that family is important, and that it’s critical for society to help fathers be actively involved in their children’s lives. It needs to become more acceptable to say that you’re not just heading out, but specifically heading home.