Princess Kate is one of my heroes. She is incredibly beautiful, always smiling, intelligent. She married a Prince and became a Princess. She is a mom. She lives publicly, always watched by millions of people, and does not seem to mind. She appeared publicly in high heels hours after delivering her second baby.
And she is speaking loudly and publicly about supporting our children and their mental health issues.
I could not be more impressed.
She has said that she wants to remove the taboo around talking about mental health issues. She and William and Harry have been working together, have founded their own charity, Heads Together, with the focus of changing the conversation, getting people talking.
She even said, to the media, that she and Prince William “wouldn’t hesitate” if their children needed help with their mental health.
Right now, I know several mamas who are in the process of trying to figure out assessments for their children. They are not sure if their children are autistic, have ADHD, have ODD, are bipolar, or none of the above. They are heroes as well. Because while they are searching for answers and pushing against teachers, doctors, and therapists for more information, they are also being watched and scrutinized by the greater parenting community.
There is still a feeling that if there is something “wrong” with the child, there must be something wrong with the parenting. There is a feeling that this generation of parents just isn’t in control of their kids. There is a feeling that diagnoses are excuses to medicate and avoid parenting. It comes from our parents’ generation, and the way that we have been raised, and the intensity of parenting while trying to maintain likes on Instagram and Facebook. How can I admit that my child is struggling while still smiling and sharing pictures of the paintings we did this weekend? How can I admit that I am seeking answers to my questions about what makes my child different if the constant message from the online world is that “God designed me to mother these children, and I can handle it”?
I want to be a strong woman, and to support strong women. There is a meme that reads: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” It moves my soul and makes me want to live as a strong woman. There are supports out there that say things like, “Don’t mind the mess, my children are making memories.” These are positive messages that encourage moms to breathe and appreciate their kids, but then it is even harder to admit, I live in filth, I struggle to smile. Strength right now is putting on a show so my kids are distracted while I go hide in my room and cry about how I feel like I am a failure.
In the midst of all these parenting pressures, there is a deep culture of shame. A definition of shame is that shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. (B. Brown). We all feel that we are not good enough. Not doing a good enough job. Not making enough money. Not being fun enough. Not praying enough. Not worthy. While the Bible does say, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” the entire rest of Jesus’s story is spent exclaiming just how incredibly valuable we are to him. To Jesus, we are worthy. In Jesus, we are worthy. We are more than worthy, we are priceless.
“Shame needs three things to grow in our lives, secrecy, silence, and judgement.” (B. Brown). Shame is the pain we feel when we look around us and feel the burden of comparison and judgement coming from every single direction. Intended or not, we can feel judgement from even our closest friends, even our partners and spouses. Especially when it comes to raising our children or getting to the heart of their special needs. However, it is not from God, and the pain it brings is enough of a reason to try to crack and break the silence.
When we share our stories honestly, we develop community, empathy, and resilience to shame. When we talk about how things have changed with a heart that wants to understand across generations and differences, we can connect and understand each other.
I want to talk about how hard it was for me to seek an autism diagnosis for my son. My son is amazing, intelligent, and even well-behaved much of the time. He speaks clearly and is doing well in school. And, he is autistic.
I want to talk about how hard it was for me to breastfeed my children. I want to talk about how God loved me through my post-partum depression, didn’t leave me, but didn’t free me from it either. I want to talk about how inadequate I feel as a mother, as a wife, and as a partner.
But I want to do it without whining. Without pouting. Without judgement. Without judging myself. Without making it sound worse than it is. Without making it into a sob story. It’s not a sob story. On their own, none of those things I want to talk about is even a story. It’s just part of my story. And my story is long, convoluted, and far from over.
I guess I feel like the best stories have real hardship, but also have real courage, and I can see how choices made reflect the values of the teller. I know that my story has all of those things in it too. I just struggle to be real and tell it. This is why I am so incredibly amazed and impressed by Her Royal Highness, and the changes I can start to see filtering down. She is trying to be real. She is trying to embrace her own struggles and talk about how real people are really working through their stories.
She inspires me.