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Just how relatable was royal mum Kate's podcast? Two NI mums have their say


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The Duchess of Cambridge and Giovanna Fletcher on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast

The Duchess of Cambridge and Giovanna Fletcher on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast

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The Duchess of Cambridge and Giovanna Fletcher on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast

Friendly, frank and engaging, the Duchess of Cambridge's chat with Giovanna Fletcher about her experiences of motherhood gained praise worldwide. We asked two NI parents what they thought of it.

Claire O’Boyle: ‘She hit nail on head when she said it’s a juggling act’

Before I start, I think it's worth noting from the off that the Duchess of Cambridge and I are clearly two very different women.

Just days before her beautifully intimate account of motherhood was aired the mum-of-three had paid a visit to our very own Ark Farm in Co Down, just a few miles from where I live. Pictures of the royal holding a snake at the farm were simply gorgeous, and brought me back to my daughter Betsy's fourth birthday last spring, and a day out at that very farm with a glorious gang of family and friends.

We had a brilliant day, but my experience with a snake didn't appear quite as serene as Kate's.

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Journalist Claire O’Boyle can’t hide her terror as she touches a snake

Journalist Claire O’Boyle can’t hide her terror as she touches a snake

Journalist Claire O’Boyle can’t hide her terror as she touches a snake

I think a picture says a thousand words in this case about the basic differences in our demeanours.

However, it seems there's a lot Kate and I can agree on.

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For one, my chance to listen to the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, hosted by Giovanna Fletcher, wasn't as relaxing as I'd hoped. I had been picturing a cup of tea on my lap, making some notes and reflecting at leisure on how mine and Kate's experiences compared.

In the end it took three listens before I was sure I'd caught the best bits, through many interruptions.

Think screeches, some quite special singing and a few urgent requests for "something yummy" from the cupboard.

So yes, Kate nailed one thing: it's a juggling act.

And I'm sure, despite the palace and the staff, her endless charity work and the fact her husband's destined for the throne, she means it when she says she gets the "mummy guilt".

Because, let's face it, who doesn't?

When asked by Giovanna if she suffered from it, Kate, mum to Prince George (6), Princess Charlotte (4) and one-year-old Prince Louis, said: "Yes, absolutely - and anyone who doesn't as a mother is actually lying. Yes, all the time."

I've had mum guilt right from the start.

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Claire with husband Andrew and their two daughters Alice and Betsy

Claire with husband Andrew and their two daughters Alice and Betsy

Claire with husband Andrew and their two daughters Alice and Betsy

Betsy was born in April 2015 and Alice came along two years later. She'll be three in May. We had Betsy when we lived in London and my husband Andrew and I popped her off to a childminder when she was nine months old.

Like Kate told Giovanna, I'd imagined my life would click straight back into place and I'd sail my way back to normality as soon as I was back at work. But it didn't take long for reality to hit - and back then, the mummy guilt was strong. Long hours at work, far from our families - mine in Northern Ireland, Andrew's in Wales - and a big old stretch in our finances, the early days of parenthood were a lot to deal with.

Okay, I didn't have to step outside the Lindo Wing in towering heels just hours after giving birth with the world's media watching on, but I had the usual challenges to deal with.

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The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge outside hospital following the birth of Prince George in 2013

The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge outside hospital following the birth of Prince George in 2013

The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge outside hospital following the birth of Prince George in 2013

The biggest one, of course, was being totally clueless.

We'd said before the baby came that we'd never leave London, but by the summer of 2016 we were back home in Northern Ireland, once Hurricane Betsy's true strength and power had made itself known.

It was the best decision we ever made, and before long Miss Alice was on the way.

Even back then the Duchess of Cambridge was a kind of mothering role model to me.

She'd already shown the world that 'two under two' was a breeze, and with Prince George and Princess Charlotte having an even tighter age gap than our two, I was sure I'd cope. And sure look, here I am to tell the tale…

The duchess, who of course has a nanny, told Giovanna how sharing the responsibilities of parenthood was beneficial.

And while the rest of us may not have such a great deal of hired help, I appreciate the sentiment, because a lot of mums I know feel they have to be the first port of call at every stage. It's a lot to take on and I agree with the Duchess that taking help where it's available is well worth doing.

But that's not all Kate (38) opened up about.

She spoke with great honesty about her experiences with hypnobirthing and her dreadful morning sickness, as well as the nerves that come with taking your newborn home for the first time.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son, Prince George

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son, Prince George

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son, Prince George

Some of her observations made me laugh, like Prince William fitting the car seat for their journey home from hospital with little Prince George, and the fact she "sleeps less" than she used to.

It's nice to know it's not just me who's still thinking about that, years after baby number one was born.

I loved her enthusiasm for the outdoors, too, for getting mucky with her children. The duchess talked about the sense of adventure kids can have from those uncomplicated, outside experiences, and I couldn't agree more.

Away from the four walls of the house, the lists on the fridge and the background noise of the radio or TV, our girls never laugh as much as when we're looking under rocks for slimy things or constructing a pile of acorns for some lucky squirrels to have for dinner.

Those times are the best for me as a mum, along with kitchen discos and telling stories, and if that's how it rolls for royalty, then I'm glad for them.

And as Kate alluded to, one of the things that makes our children happiest is the love they get from the big layers of their family.

Their grandparents, their aunties and uncles and their cousins. The duchess recalled the special memories she had with her own grandmother, and I know my girls will have those memories with their grandparents too, the Irish and the Welsh ones, as well as their aunts, uncles and cousins.

They may not be princesses, and there might be an incredible number of mummy fails along the way, but Betsy and Alice will never want for love and I think, on the whole, that's what Kate was getting at.

Lisa Smyth: ‘Her experiences of compromise, guilt and struggle struck a chord with me’

I never thought I would have anything in common with a princess. But in 2013 I found myself going through my first pregnancy at the same time as the Duchess of Cambridge.

As the headlines were dominated by her experience of hyperemesis, I was suffering with unrelenting sickness.

And just three days after Prince George made his long-awaited arrival into the world my first child Grace was born by emergency Caesarean section when I became seriously ill with pre-eclampsia.

But is that where the similarities end?

In her discussion with Giovanna Fletcher Kate described the moment she first laid eyes on her son as "amazing". It probably had a lot to do with the circumstances of her birth, but I felt stunned when I first saw Grace.

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Journalist Lisa Smyth with children Grace and Ethan

Journalist Lisa Smyth with children Grace and Ethan

Journalist Lisa Smyth with children Grace and Ethan

After spending nine months counting down the days to meet her, I think I was in shock when the moment finally arrived. I couldn't believe this little person was mine and I even asked if I was allowed to touch her.

Kate recalled the soaring temperatures in the days that followed Prince George's birth, and actually this is something that sticks out in my mind, too.

Motherhood didn't come easy to me - I quickly developed severe postnatal depression and I don't remember being flooded with love.

Instead I remember seemingly endless, hot and sticky nights trying to settle a screaming baby.

I remember the first night back on the ward and the heat was intense, I remember standing over Grace in agony, the sweat running down my face as I desperately tried to change her nappy and stop her from crying and waking the other babies.

I'm sure it was a far cry from Kate's experience in her private room of the Lindo Wing.

For me, it took a year before I got into my groove but once that happened, I loved being a mum.

I was fortunate that I worked from home, so I was able to spend a lot more time with Grace than a lot of other working mums. In that way I didn't really experience the mum guilt that she spoke about.

However, it has come thick and fast since the arrival of my second child Ethan.

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Lisa's children Grace and Ethan

Lisa's children Grace and Ethan

Lisa's children Grace and Ethan

Juggling and feeling like I'm failing at everything has become all too familiar.

It started on the first day Ethan and I came home from hospital. I was settling down to read Grace a bedtime story and I had to leave her to go and feed her little brother.

Since that night I've had to constantly juggle their competing demands - dragging a sleeping baby out of his cot to do the school run for his sister, trying to help Grace with her homework while Ethan climbs on my head, and like so many second children, Ethan went without all the baby classes his sister and I enjoyed together.

It's a non-stop struggle.

I feel the weight of trying to be the best mum I can be. Like Kate I had an idyllic childhood, my mum made it all seem so easy and I try every day to be to Grace and Ethan what she has been to me.

I try to do the baking, painting, cooking together, playing board games, but it isn't always possible, mainly because of work.

There's a saying that we expect women to work like they don't have children and raise children as though they don't work, and it's definitely true.

I've lost count of the times where I've given the kids half the attention they deserve because I'm working, but I've also had to turn down a fantastic job offer because I just couldn't make it fit around the children.

Much has been made of Kate's admission that she used hypnobirthing.

I hadn't even heard of it until after Ethan was born, although I wish I'd known about it because I feel like it would have helped me cope better with his birth. But then I was painfully under-prepared when it came to the birth of both of my children.

When it came to the actual looking after of the baby, I was definitely much more prepared for the sleep deprivation and effort that breastfeeding takes the second time around, making those first crazy months easier to handle.

Kate also hit the headlines for describing herself as a hands-on mum, and while I'm sure that's the case, I'm also sure she has a support network that I can only dream of.

While she left hospital looking a million dollars on every occasion, I limped out, unwashed and looking like I hadn't slept for 48 hours - mainly because I hadn't.

On the other hand, the world's media wasn't waiting to greet me and I don't have millions of people scrutinising everything I do.

Despite all of this, her comments about compromise, guilt and the struggle to "have it all" really struck a chord.

So, it seems that you can have all the wealth, power and privilege in the world, but really when it comes to being a mum, we're not that different after all.

Lisa Smyth is a journalist and writes a parenting, health and lifestyle blog Mumbreakable

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