By Elizabeth Logan. Photos: Getty Images.
Speaking on Thursday at a maternal mental health event in London, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton took a moment to remember the victims of this week's terrorist attack in Westminster, and also opened up about the challenges of motherhood—a rarity for the picture-perfect face of the stoic British royal family.
"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 35-year-old said. "For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance."
"It's right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains," she added. "It's okay not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness."
It's increasingly become more acceptable for women in the spotlight to be transparent about their struggles, particularly with motherhood (Chrissy Teigen, for example, wrote an essay about her experience with postpartum depression in Glamour.)
It might feel tempting to write these women's experiences off—they've got nannies and heaps of money and endless resources to help them out—but when women in the spotlight speak up, they start conversations that destigmatize issues. The woman who suffers the most is the woman who goes unheard, and perhaps Middleton's comments will help mothers ask for the help they need.
Read Middleton's entire speech below.
Before I begin, I know you would 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're here to talk about.
I would like to thank Best Beginnings for inviting me here to introduce the 'Out of The Blue' series. This collection of films highlights how vital it is to be open about our mental health especially in the early years of parenthood.
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.
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. For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.
Sadly, for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with their own mental health. Two in 10 women will suffer mental health issues that can occur during pregnancy and in the year after birth, often clouding their moments of joy with a real sense of darkness and isolation. 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".
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 okay not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor. Getting help with our mental health is no different—our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.
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.
The work of Best Beginnings is vital. By providing tools and resources to help parents establish their own confidence and their own self-awareness, Best Beginnings enables mothers and fathers to do the best they can for their families.
The Out of the Blue films you are about to see are also an amazing example to all parents, that starting conversations and asking for support is a real source of strength. They have been created with real parents, talking honestly and openly about their own experiences of parenthood.
I am now delighted to introduce two brave parents who have contributed to the films, Jessica and John Warne. Thank you.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
More from Glamour: