Dear Your Highness Kate,
I trust you have enjoyed the unrelenting focus on your pregnancy, the morning sickness, the weight gain, the choice of maternity wear, the why-won’t-you-deliver-now frenzy. It’s my melancholy duty to inform you that that was the easy part.
Since you—and, more saliently, your elegantly balding husband, the future king—were born, there have been a few adjustments in this raising a baby business. Turns out, parenting requires a lot of decisions, and each of these needs need to be made perfectly, or you’ll hear about it. The Mother Hood has become a tough part of town; one wrong turn and you’ll run into a viper’s nest of finger wagging.
(MORE: The Great Kate Wait)
Maybe you’ve heard of this young mum, Britney Spears? She’s a commoner, much like you, only a bit commoner. Couple of suboptimal parenting choices pretty much sunk her forever in the public eye. Even relatively sane mums, who are, like you, married to famous gentlemen, have every move scrutinized for public judgment. Katie Holmes reportedly let her child stay up late. Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly declined to give her children carbohydrates. Gwen Stefani allegedly gave her husband too many childrearing duties. Minor infractions? Not according to the cover of this magazine.
The woman who would have been your mother in law, Princess Diana, did not lack, alas, for public and press attention. But even since her time, the mothering judgment industry has become a profit center. You know those serene old-school paintings of mothers you probably have strewn around Buck Palace? The virgin Madonna and child with maybe a cow and donkey looking on? Replace those images in your mind with photos of the other Madonna, the non-virgin one, with her children and a herd of photographers surrounding them. Raising a child, particularly a famous one, is now a spectator sport.
Expect to be the subject of much post-partum quarterbacking. For a start, will the future British monarch be breastfed? Exclusively? For how long? What if it doesn’t go well and you have to supplement with formula? Are we ready for a Sovereign who might suffer from nipple confusion? If the royal pacifier falls on the floor, will you or your designated representative suck it before returning it to the royal mouth in order to introduce good microbes? Or will it undergo a royal boil so as to be completely sterilized? Will the monarchical waste matter be deposited in cloth or disposable diapers? Later on, will the heir to throne be given the requisite 10,000 hours or training so he or she can be truly proficient at being majestic, or will he or she be guided toward unstructured play, to ensure normality? These may not be decisions you’ve formed a committee to consider. Not to worry, one will be formed for you.
(MORE: Meet Dr. William Sears, the Man Who Remade Motherhood)
Now, there are some who say that parenting is natural and we shouldn’t overthink it. Just do whatever feels right for you and this child you love, they’ll say. Those people have read no tabloids, popular magazines or motherhood blogs in the last five years. Ah, the motherhood blogs. Avoid them, especially the one called Urbanbaby. It will make your uterus shrink in panic and revulsion. And it’s a major fail if you don’t provide least one more potential heir to the throne.
Not that I’m judging.
Read TIME’s previous feature about why the Royal Baby will be such a figure of global influence
Read TIME’s original 1982 story about the birth of Prince William