Kate Middleton's Private World: 'She's No Pushover,' Says Friend

"It’s the life of a working mom with three young children—just a different sort of day job to most," a friend tells PEOPLE

From school drop-offs in her gym clothes to date nights with Prince William, Kate Middleton's life behind the scenes may come as a surprise.

Whether in Norfolk or the family's London residence at Kensington Palace, Kate is "very chilled at home," a friend tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "It's a normal, busy family home with kids running around and knocking things over. There's no airs and graces."

At the same time, the friend adds, "when you see her behind closed doors with the children, she's a very confident mom, and she's no pushover. The children get told off if they act up."

For a woman whose signature blowouts and perfectly coordinated ensembles are emulated around the world, the school run affords an opportunity for a lower-maintenance routine.

"There are no blow-dries—it's always hair up in a ponytail," says the friend. "She's either in her gym clothes, or a dress and sneakers, very little makeup, apologizing as she's late for the school run before dashing off. It's the life of a working mom with three young children—just a different sort of day job to most."

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Kate's priority is making sure her children — Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2 — have as normal an upbringing as possible.

"She is doing that to help her children be more grounded and keep their reality in check," says a source. "That's what really matters to her."

On weekends Kate has been known to take the kids to Mable's Paint Pot, near their country home of Anmer Hall, where they spend the afternoon painting pottery and picking up sweets. William and Kate also step out for date nights at the local pubs. The couple, who will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in April, have evolved from newlyweds who once enjoyed romantic getaways across the globe to contented parents whose conversations now center on child-rearing.

"They were talking about home life and the children—just like any other parents on a night out," says a local. "You were just struck by what a normal lovely couple they are."

When pandemic guidelines allow, they also regularly pop over to Bucklebury to visit the Middletons for grandparent time and babysitting help.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/kate-middleton/" data-inlink="true">Kate Middleton</a>, <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-william/" data-inlink="true">Prince William</a>, family
Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte and Prince George. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

In addition to her parents, Kate relies on the family's trusted nanny Maria Turrion Borrallo, who has been with them since 2014, when George was 8 months old. She also has her right-hand woman Natasha Archer, her stylist and personal assistant.

"If you look at the people around her, it's a tight team," says a source close to Kate. "She would be lost without Maria, Tash and everyone. They work very hard, but they make it possible for Kate to juggle everything."

Prioritizing children's mental and emotional well-being is one of the key messages Kate promotes in her royal work—and she's putting that into action in her own life.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton. Jonathan Buckmaster - Pool/Getty

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"She's not scared to share experiences she's had in her own life in raising her three children," says Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics, where Kate volunteered over the summer.

Adds the source close to the royal household: "Kate is living the life that she talks about. She's at the center of her family and then she's dealing with the other things afterward."

Updated by Simon Perry
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