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Justin Trudeau arrives in Luton, England, last month with wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau,daughter Ella-Grace and son Hadrien.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The fortunate thing for Justin Trudeau is that being an everyman has never exactly been a big part of his appeal.

If he were a prime minister who had reached his office by casting himself as a blue-collar hero, or even just been able to keep his privilege hidden, this week's story that he is paying his family's two nannies from the household budget of his official residence could be really damaging.

As it is, with the public having long ago accepted that Mr. Trudeau's life experience has been nothing like that of most other people – with being part of Canadian royalty having worked to his advantage more than not – perceptions of him have hardly been shaken.

But that is not to say the little controversy of the past couple of days is as irrelevant as Liberal supporters irritated with media coverage of it would like to believe.

The fact that Mr. Trudeau loudly proclaimed during the recent election campaign that rich families like his should not receive public dollars for child care, and will now have the public cover not one but two nannies that his family paid for itself before he became PM, is in itself difficult to swallow.

And it points to what should be a broader concern for Mr. Trudeau and the team around him, about occasional lapses in self-awareness that can give the impression of entitlement – and that, coming from someone who appears to have given ample thought to his personal and political identity, can be a little baffling.

The best previous example, and the one that most plainly involved poor judgment, came in the years leading up to his ascent to the Liberal leadership, when he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees – including from charities – while a sitting MP. That would not have looked great on anyone drawing a six-figure salary as an elected representative, but the optics were especially bad given his personal wealth, and his subsequent offer to repay any organization that felt it had not got its money's worth did not answer what he was thinking in the first place.

Sometimes, it is just in the form of an ill-considered comment. Last week, while acknowledging to a BBC interviewer that his surname had afforded him opportunities, Mr. Trudeau said he had to work "two or three times as hard as anyone else" to make use of them. His point was not unreasonable, but combined with his boast in the next breath that he had left doubters "in the dust," it had some Liberals cringing at how easily it could be perceived as arrogance.

There is some danger of veering into psychoanalysis in trying to understand why Mr. Trudeau, who for the most part displays impressive personal discipline in the way he presents himself, occasionally causes himself grief. Maybe it's that, like everyone else, he has only his own life experience to go on, and for all his effort, it is not always possible to envision appearances to others. Or maybe he feels justified in accepting speaking fees or having publicly funded nannies because that is what he would do if he did not have a family fortune to fall back on. Without being inside his head, it is impossible to know.

What seems clearer is that his staff would do him a service by being better prepared to help him navigate the optics of such things. The nanny story should have been identified as an issue that would need to be managed.

The Liberals might at least have been ready to explain that Mr. Trudeau would not spend more in his household budget than his predecessor, or point to other positions that would be eliminated, or make a strong case about the demands that would pull both Mr. Trudeau and his wife away from their parental duties. But the way the story was handled in its first day suggested it was not picked up by political antennae in time.

With the Liberals still operating with a skeleton staff – their issues-management director, for instance, was announced only last week – it is understandable that those already in place have been preoccupied with policy files more substantive than the Prime Minister's child-care arrangements.

But in the long-run, there would be peril for them in altogether brushing off the optics of Mr. Trudeau's privilege.

The longer a prime minister is in office, even when he or she has had a more usual life experience previously, the harder it is to stay in touch with realities outside. Few expect to be able to relate to Mr. Trudeau. But he would not do himself any favours by appearing more removed from the rest of us than he is now.