What Prince George’s Bathrobe Says about Modern Parents

Arguably the best thing that happened during the Obamas’ visit to England last week was the meeting between the president and two-year-old Prince George. The tiny royal, who had been allowed to stay up past his bedtime in order to meet Mr. and Mrs. Obama, shook hands with the leader of the free world—in his nightclothes. Moments after the photos of their meeting appeared online, the bathrobe Prince George had been wearing sold out in stores. It can’t be denied that the bathrobe was adorable. But what toddler, in this day and age, wears a bathrobe?

I can’t help but imagine those many bathrobes languishing in the closets and dresser drawers of children across the Western world in the weeks to come. So why did their parents buy them? Was it just to take one adorable photo to post on social media with a jokey caption declaring that now their Johnny was also ready to meet the president? Or was it something else? Something that had to do with seeing that little boy with his hair neatly combed and his pajamas neatly pressed that set off a yearning in the hearts of parents everywhere to return to the kind of lifestyle that Will and Kate represent?

While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are refreshingly modern by royal standards, they are still quite old-fashioned by today’s parenting standards. In fact, they are very publicly living a life more commonly associated with the 1950s, with all the wholesomeness and family values that entails. Kate is essentially a stay-at-home mom. She is always impeccably dressed. Her children are neat and well-behaved. Their household runs like clockwork. And William is unequivocally the head of the family.

But does this really appeal to us? Aren’t we supposed to want something else, to “have it all?” Women should be able to maintain their careers and their homes without giving anything up. Men should take on an equal share of the housework and childcare. This is what we should want. But that little bathrobe suggests otherwise.

When we see that little boy, looking like Michael Darling from Peter Pan, something pulls at our heartstrings. We want our children to look like that too. Not just to be adorable—although that’s part of it—but to embody that lifestyle. That’s a little boy who knows how to shake hands. He’ll look you in the eye and say “How do you do?” He’ll go straight to bed when he’s told and he’ll do it with a smile and a kiss.

Of course, Will and Kate (and little George and his sister Charlotte) are royalty. And that adds to their appeal. It makes the life they live glamorous and aspirational. It filters out impediments to the 1950s lifestyle, like the difficulties of raising a family on one income or the drudgery of housework. But what we are left with is a glittering nugget of truth; the essence of the thing, rather than the details.

That bathrobe is a whimsical nod to a lifestyle we women have said we don’t want, one we’ve gleefully cast aside in order to pursue our careers, burn our bras, and order take-out instead of slaving away in the kitchen. But that bathrobe. We bought that bathrobe. And even though it will live in the back of the closet, we won’t throw it out. Because, we’ll tell ourselves, he might wear it one day. And, you never know, he just might.

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  • fussbudgetjr

    The trick to living “that 1950’s lifestyle” is to only purchase that which you can afford. Saving your money to buy those luxuries has the added bonus of allowing you to appreciate the item’s value. It is possible to live in the modern era as a single-income family. We’ve done it for 20 years. We raised two children in a modest home that we own… and all of this in New Jersey, where they insist it cannot be done. (Oh…. and my children DID wear bathrobes.)

  • Vanada

    My kids wore bathrobes, and slippers too – after bath, before bed. I don’t think it is all that unusual or reactionary (although I don’ mind at all if it is). Just cold New England weather and drafty houses.

  • Not to pick on you Faith, because it’s everywhere, but this sort of thing really ticks me off. I’m referring to the “drudgery of housework” and “slaving away in the kitchen.”

    Presumably you have a house or an apartment or an igloo or a tarpaper shack or maybe even a double-wide that you share with others whom you love. Your abode probably contains someone’s favorite chair, a scratched up play table, an overloaded calendar hanging above your kitchen work-station, and maybe– if you are lucky enough to have one– a dining room with a table. You may eat at this table, or it may be the foundation of a giant mountain of junk mail, old school papers, over-due library books, long-lost sweaters and buried scissors, screwdrivers, and rulers topped with a dead flower from last Easter’s dinner. Doesn’t matter.

    These people and those things in that McMansion or shack are in your home.

    Why are you using the term “drudge work” to describe the tasks you and your family do to create and maintain a home?

    I’ll grant that scouring the bottom of a copper pot that boiled over is not my idea of a good time. But dang! Look how shiny it is now!

    I think it is a travesty that women– whether they work outside the home or not– have allowed homemaking to be referred to as drudge work. If you wanted to dismantle families (of any composition), wouldn’t one of the first things you’d do be denigrating the work of creating a home?

    As to “slaving” in the kitchen, I refer you to Meta Given’s Creeds. From example, from the Meal Planner’s Creed :

    “My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore–
    I will treat my job with the respect that is due it.”

    –END RANT–

  • Pingback: That’s it. I’ve had it.()

  • Abu Nudnik

    blah blah blah blah… it’s the modern fashion that’s old hat. “Anything not eternal is always out-of-date.”

  • withitmama

    My son had a bathrobe and slippers at that age. He still has a bathrobe and slippers now as an adult. Nothing old fashioned about that.