During an engagement in London earlier today, The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack in Westminster, also admitting as a parent she struggles with a lack of confidence under the desire to be ‘perfect’.
At the Royal College for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists near Regent’s Park, Catherine attended a reception for Best Beginnings’ Out of the Blue series, a programme of educational films promoting mental health for parents and their children. Her engagement was not altered, though The Queen cancelled her engagement to open New Scotland Yard to ease pressure on the police force.
Best Beginnings works with Heads Together, which William, Kate and Harry founded to end the stigma of mental health.
In a speech at the event, the Duchess remembered those affected by the incident yesterday, which has now claimed four lives, plus that of the attacker. “I know you will all want to join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to all those sadly affected by yesterday’s terrible attack in Westminster. We will be thinking of all the families as we discuss the important issues we are here to talk about.”
Kate then spoke of the hardships of becoming a mother, calling it a combination of ‘joy, exhaustion, love, and worry’.
“Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother.”
“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge – even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not,” she said, recognising that as a Royal she has the chance to have nannies and housekeepers to help look after Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
“Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight.
“You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost. And yet there is no rule book, no right or wrong – you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family.”
The Duchess then admitted: “For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.”
“Many of these women also suffer in silence, overwhelmed by negative feelings, but also afraid to admit to the struggles they are facing due to the fear or shame of what others might think if they ‘aren’t coping’.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 23, 2017
“Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent; pretending we’re all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it.
“It’s right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s ok not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.”
As has been compared so many times before in speeches on mental health, Kate stated that no one would question seeking medical advice if a woman caught a fever during pregnancy. “Getting help with our mental health is no different – our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need,” she said.
“Conversations are crucial for mental wellbeing and they should be part of everyday family life. Talking about a problem with a friend or another trusted person can be the beginning of getting better.
“This week, as we look forward to Mother’s Day, I would love to see everyone celebrate and value the fundamental importance that mothers play in family life.
“Mothers take on an overwhelming responsibility of caring for their families. Their role is vital in providing unconditional love, care, and support at home, particularly in the early years of a child’s development. We therefore should do everything we can to support and value their hard work. ”
After her speech and seeing the short films, The Duchess of Cambridge sat in on a parental support group where mothers and fathers told her of their experiences.
Kirsty Francois was 19 when she had her daughter Tegan-Mia, now 2. She found herself homeless after experiencing problems with her daughter’s father, despite working in a nursery. Nothing she dealt with at work, she told Catherine, compared to having to deal with being a mother herself.
“It got to a point where I was trying to support all three of us and I just was’t coping. I became so withdrawn from her. My nurse recognised that there was clearly some depression there. That unleashed everything I had held back for long,” Kirsty said in the discussion.