The Duke & Duchess Of Cambridge Visit The Royal International Air Tattoo
The Duke & Duchess Of Cambridge Visit The Royal International Air Tattoo

Why mums owe Kate Middleton a round of applause

The Duchess of Cambridge is elegant, royal, wealthy and married to the future King of England. Me, well, I am none of those things.

But despite these glaring differences we do share one major thing in common - mum guilt. And I'm sorry, Kate, but knowing this actually makes me feel just a little bit better.

During a recent interview on UK podcast, Happy Mum, Happy Baby, to discuss her Five Big Questions initiative, the Duchess spoke about frequently experiencing the unique and often consuming feeling of mum guilt, like many mothers do, "all the time."

"Anyone who doesn't as a mother is actually lying … It's a constant challenge, you hear it time and time again from mums," she told host Giovanna Fletcher. "You're always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgment."

In the intimate interview, the mother-of-three revealed she often experiences anxiety and doubt about her ability as a parent and worries about falling short - even to the point of feeling like a failure at times.

The Duchess spoke frankly about the challenges of motherhood with Giovanna Fletcher on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast. Picture: Kensington Palace/AP
The Duchess spoke frankly about the challenges of motherhood with Giovanna Fletcher on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast. Picture: Kensington Palace/AP

Although the Duchess and I are from completely different worlds (i.e. I don't live in a palace), I could not relate more to what she had said.

For over eight years now, I've experienced mum guilt on a regular basis. And just like a persistent bout of head lice, mum guilt has remained steadfastly, itching away, some days a bit worse than others.

It debuted months before I had even given birth to my first child. In fact, it arrived as soon as the two pink lines appeared on my First Response test. At the time, I thought it was simply some unlisted pregnancy symptom, but later realised it was actually the beginnings of mum guilt forming its impenetrable foundation.

I drank way too much that night two weeks ago and I was pregnant! Have I called irreversible harm?

I haven't been taking prenatal vitamins - my baby won't be developing properly.

Should I really be spending money on this pre-planned holiday now there is a baby to save for?

A photo of the family released on Twitter for Christmas 2019. Picture: @ComdtAC/Twitter
A photo of the family released on Twitter for Christmas 2019. Picture: @ComdtAC/Twitter

The severity of my mum guilt ranges from a minor twang through to an all-encompassing body and soul ache that can often make me feel as if I am falling short in the realm of parenting, even when I'm not.

Recently though, my mum guilt took on a whole new level of intensity, raising my ache to an excruciating pain and, in doing so, made me realise how significant and dominating it can be.

A month ago, I ventured away with some girlfriends for a much-anticipated weekend at the beach with my girlfriends. From the moment I began the journey down my driveway, I had my 90s playlist turned up in my car and was eager and willing to get Jiggy Wit It.

I was excited! Excited for my two nights of freedom (without kids and my husband), excited for zero responsibilities, and excited because this so rarely ever happens. I almost felt as if I had stepped back in time a decade to a place where having fun was all that mattered (AKA my 20s).

The Duchess of Cambridge has spoken about trying to keep life as normal as possible for her world-famous children. Picture: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty
The Duchess of Cambridge has spoken about trying to keep life as normal as possible for her world-famous children. Picture: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

While the first night was exactly what I had imagined and hoped it would be - wine-ing, spa-ing, talking, laughing and relaxing - the next morning I woke not only with a sore head but with another feeling taking hold.

For a few hours I couldn't put my finger on it, but then I received a text from my husband. There was nothing alarming in the message, just an update telling me how well our two girls did at their first swimming lesson for the term. And that's when it hit me, the tsunami of mum guilt.

It began with perhaps the 'staple' of the condition - critical internal dialogue.

Why aren't you there for this? They will notice you aren't there. You are missing important moments for selfish reasons. You shouldn't be here enjoying yourself without your family. What's even the point of having a family if you aren't with them?

And then came the second wave - emotional repercussions; feelings of selfishness, unworthiness and of being a parenting failure.

This 'unnecessary', 'self-indulgent' trip made me feel as if I had abandoned my two daughters on a doorstep and run away without any intention to return.

I was so overwhelmed that all I then wanted to do was leave my weekend away, to go home to my family. Not because I wasn't having fun but because I felt guilty for not having it with them.

As that final day went by I found myself literally watching the clock, thinking about what would be happening at home and what I, as a neglectful mother, was missing out on. The fun had waned, and not even a wine (or two) could bring it back.

When I arrived home and walked inside my two daughters looked up from their game of Hungry Hippos, glanced at me briefly, and promptly went back to whacking those hippos as if nothing had ever happened. Because for them, not much had. It was just me feeling this way thanks to the mum guilt.

And although Kate talking about her mum guilt didn't take mine away, hearing her discuss her own experience, the juggle, the pull, the "constant challenge" and the way it impacts all mothers, offered me something else, a sense of comfort knowing that I was most definitely not alone.

And for that I'd like to say a big thanks Kate, from one guilty mum to another.

Shona Hendley is a columnist for RendezView.com.au



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