Like most of the world, I saw you standing in front of the hospital cradling your precious newborn son, looking ravishing in your tailor-made red dress, showing just the hint of a postpartum tummy hours after giving birth. As the mother of a newborn myself, I was amazed. Where were you hiding those enormous pads and mesh panties we all exit the hospital wearing after giving birth? I marveled at your seven hour postpartum super-humanness, not a hair out of place and stilettos to boot! I can’t pretend to know your secrets, but I would suppose your exercise regimen, hair stylist and the team of midwives working toward best outcomes of a natural birth had a lot to do with it.
I cannot imagine the pressure you felt as you stepped out of that hospital into a sea of flashing paparazzi cameras and shouts. Your appearance calmly and cheerfully communicated: “I’ve got this. It’s all so very easy and effortless and everything is under complete control.” You did exactly what was expected of you by the royal family, the media and an adoring public, but also you did exactly as I would imagine you expect of yourself. And as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding quickly approaches this weekend, with the entire world watching, I’m positive you will live up to the seemingly unattainable expectation of flawlessness.
Though this is intended to be a note of encouragement from me to you, perhaps it is from you that I’m seeking encouragement. Strip away the trappings of royal life and the support you both from your staff and your lovingly engaged family, and you’re simply a mother seeking to raise her children to be happy and healthy. Just like we all are. However, it is likely a tall order in your extraordinary circumstances. While I am no Duchess, I am lucky to have support, from my immediate family, and I strive to raise my children to be emotionally intelligent and joyful in a healthy, happy environment. But, as I imagine you must often feel, I can be crippled by the weight of what is expected of me as a mother, and more so by the expectations I put on myself.
Your Royal Highness, you’ve actually become a the mental health expert in your own right given one of the key projects of The Royal Foundation centers on mental health. Perhaps you can help shed light on the epidemic women around the globe are experiencing when it comes to what is expected of them. I’m curious about a few things, from your perspective:
- What are the perceived expectations of mothers in Western society and how do they inform our own expectations of ourselves as mothers?
- What are the optics we try to project as mothers and what informs that narrative?
- What lies at the heart of this narrative and how do we address it?
My personal experience is that Western culture dictates that mothers exude effortlessness at all times and at all costs. That the image we, as mothers, are meant to project today is of a loving, nurturing mommy who can juggle all of the balls of home, career and childrearing and make it seem easy. That is the image we are shown picture by picture while scrolling through our Instagram feeds. We see happy children eating healthy, organic snacks in a beautifully designed home, all while the mother maintains a commitment to self-care with a lifestyle brand as a side hustle. That is also the image many women have of you, dear Duchess, nestled in your Kensington Palace apartment with your newborn babe. And why wouldn’t we? The very first effortless and beautiful picture of you with your newborn tells the whole story in our minds.
I think what lies at the heart of this narrative for many women is control. I know in my case things often feel so out of hand that I cling to anything I can control. The problem is that my own need to control takes so much effort that I can’t get the optics to work in my favor. But so many do, like you dear Duchess, and I can’t help but wonder how we’re actually hurting ourselves and each other. What if we gave up this need for control? Would it all actually become effortless? Would our intuition kick in and would we fall into the flow, allowed to simply do what feels right for ourselves and our children, rather than what we feel is expected? And if we surrender whatever it is that compels us to control our external narratives, would we be able to let go of our internal story of what motherhood should look like and feel comfortable simply being who we are called to be as mothers? Women who are lovingly shaping the individual lives of their children, not controlling them through our own dependence on expectations.
Kate, my warmest congratulations to you and your family on the birth of this new baby, Prince Louis, in addition to gaining a lovely, American sister-in-law. My hope is that these first few weeks will allow time for you to wear your yoga pants and let those stilettos rest in the closet, just for now. That any preening and primping you are doing is in the name of self-care and not for anyone else. And in all of the ways you are mothering your children, it is my hope you’re acting without any attachment to expectations.
You are loved,
Author: Elizabeth Broyhill Morris
Author Bio: Elizabeth Broyhill Morris is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, humanitarian and the founder of Living Hope, a community of individuals all over the world who choose to practice and pursue Hope. The great-granddaughter of an American manufacturing tycoon, granddaughter of a former United States Congressman and Senator, and daughter of a successful entrepreneur, Elizabeth has always had big shoes to fill. Despite an early, promising career in the fashion industry, she found herself in complete despair. The expectations she had for her life were shattering. As she endured a painful divorce, finding herself alone and without children, she was confronted with redefining her own worth and value. She was rapidly losing hope. But as she began the path to healing, Elizabeth came to understand that hope is not an emotion, it’s an action – and one that must be practiced consistently and intentionally. In 2015, after the death of a beloved friend by suicide, Elizabeth felt called to speak to people who had lost hope and thus Living Hope was born to help those struggling to choose Hope in the midst of adversity. Today, Elizabeth resides in Chapel Hill, N.C., with her husband, Scott, and two young children. For more information on Elizabeth Broyhill Morris and Living Hope, visit: www.thisislivinghope.com.
Link to social media or website: https://www.thisislivinghope.com