Prince Harry Is a Modern Dad—So Why Did He Barely Take Paternity Leave?
This past weekend, we finally caught a glimpse of Meghan Markle at Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday celebration, Trooping the Colour. Not that we’re counting, but it’s been five weeks since we last saw her, a postpartum vision in white, stepping out at Windsor to introduce her newborn prince. You’ll recall the Duchess of Sussex waved hi—then a royal goodbye—before disappearing into the chaos of new motherhood.
Prince Harry, on the other hand? As anyone who follows @SussexRoyal can attest, he’s been everywhere.
Three days after Archie’s birth on May 6, Harry was in the Netherlands, toasting the upcoming 2020 Invictus Games. A day after that, he dropped by the launch of Shout, a new text helpline in the UK. And in the coming days, he traveled to Oxford for a visit to the children’s hospital, then to Rome to play in the ninth annual Sentebale Polo Cup. Heck, he even attended Gabriella Windsor’s wedding (she’s the queen’s cousin once removed) dressed to the nines and ready to hobknob with everyone from his cousins Eugenie and Bea to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. (For the record, Prince William and Kate Middleton sat this celebration out.)
Before I go on, I want to be clear: I adore Prince Harry. In fact, I’m a fan of the entire royal clan. But even a royally obsessed lady like myself began to wonder: In this day and age, why didn’t he take a royally sanctioned paternity leave?
It was well within his right. In the UK, on average, fathers take two weeks off. And in the U.S., 40 percent of employers now offer paid parental leave, a 15 percent spike since 2015, according to BizWomen, with some states even formalizing the benefit with up to 12 paid weeks. Progressive companies like Apple or Facebook have stepped it up further—sometimes providing as much as 17 weeks.
I was curious, then, as to why Harry was so quick to go back to work. Is bonding just not that important to royal dads?
Not so, says Prince William, who took almost three weeks off when Prince George was born. With Princess Charlotte, that time was extended to just over a month. (Can you blame him?) The biggest change came with Prince Louis. William was back to work after just a couple of days off. (Although he did nod off during the annual Anzac Day service at Westminster Abbey, so maybe going back to work wasn’t the best idea!)
Back in the 80s, Prince Charles had a less progressive approach: He took zero days off after Princes William and Harry were born. He even skipped out to play polo in Windsor Great Park right after Harry arrived, much to Princess Diana’s dismay, according to People.com.
As for royal maternity leave, Kate took six months off per baby, and it’s likely that Meghan will do the same.
So, what gives, Harry? Ahead of Archie’s arrival, sources (including Vanity Fair royal correspondent Kate Nicholl) were all but confirming that the prince would bow out for a longer-than-usual pat leave.
Perhaps it was the fact that his mother-in-law Doria Ragland agreed to move into their new Frogmore Cottage abode to help out. Or that they found a suitable maternity nurse to cover the first three months as they continue their search for a more permanent nanny. Or maybe it was simply an unanticipated commitment to his job. (Yes, Harry has one—he carries out public duties and philanthropic efforts in support of his grandmother the queen.)
To each his own, I guess. That said, after recently welcoming my own little prince, who’s now 16 months, I frequently look back and cherish the time I had with my husband, who had four weeks paternity leave to spend as he pleased. Sure, we spent the “time off” alternating overnight shifts to make sure our newborn was still breathing, and placing 3 a.m. orders to Amazon when we realized our diaper supply was running low.
But we also binge watched Friday Night Lights and cooked and ate leisurely dinners at the table and figured out this whole parenting thing in tandem.
Prince Harry’s commitments might not require him to be gone for long (a speaking engagement here, a royal wedding there), but he’s missing out on something critical: A fleeting bonding time that research has shown as crucial to developing a relationship with one’s parents.
Even if he and Meghan spend these early days covered in barf and ordering ‘round-the-clock takeout, even if they never change out of sweatpants, even if he’s still unsure how to secure a swaddle--this time is special.
Believe me: the Polo Cup can wait.