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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Oprah, the Duchess and Me!

I am curious about the answers Harry and Meghan will give to Oprah in her interview with them next week. There will be a global audience for their story of how they plan to be ‘royal’ in ‘their’ way.

According to his interview with James Corden this week, Prince Harry was struggling to balance the demands of duty to his parental family and service to his country with his responsibilities as a husband and father. His responses to this quandary could have constitutional consequences for the UK but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s personal dilemma is common enough. How can we hold the tension between our sense of who we are and other people’s sense of who we are/who we need/ought to be? How do I balance the personal with the professional and the professional with the domestic? With the coming of shared gender responsibilities in both public and domestic spheres, striking the balance between different family responsibilities and public commitments has become a more complex task than ever.

In another high-profile conflict which may have constitutional implications in the UK, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is at the centre of a complex web of questioning about how she managed relations with her former political hero, friend and colleague, Alex Salmond. This legal case has the potential for dividing the Scottish National Party which many believe is on the brink of achieving another referendum on Scotland’s independence. Cross-examined by a Scottish Parliament Committee, Sturgeon was asked about her personal responses and political decisions as she discovered that her friend of many years had been accused of improper sexual behaviour. She described graphically the tensions between her loyalty to her erstwhile friend, her horror at what Salmond had done and her political responsibilities as leader of the Scottish government.

Both the Sussexes and Nicola Sturgeon are trailblazers in their different contexts. All the people involved live in very complex situations. The choices they are making have powerful implications far beyond the people most closely involved. They all have many questions to answer. You could say, 'so do we all'!

I’m glad Oprah won’t be asking me why I make and have made my choices. But the two stories have reminded me of the decisions I have made and the choices I still have to make as I seek to make an organic whole of different parts of my life. I still believe I need to think about what kind of wife, mother, grandmother, friend, citizen and Christian disciple I want to be. Within the finite limits created by my history, my age, my ability, energy and understanding, how can I continue to balance all these various relationships and affiliations to create a life – my life?

Since I am both unable and unwilling to be a carbon copy of anyone else, there’s no script for this. Balancing the professional and the domestic, the public and the private, the objective and the subjective, the spiritual and the practical, the emotional and the rational are uniquely individual matters. Whether we are royals or politicians, rough sleepers or pensioners, if we don’t keep making all the choices we can for ourselves, someone else will answer the question for us: ‘Who was I put on this earth to be?’

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