You don’t need to have children to know that becoming a new mum is hard.
First your body grows an entire human, then you have to learn how to look after said human while surviving on an amount of sleep which has previously been used as a form of torture.
Now imagine doing all of that with the eyes of the world upon you, and you’ve arrived at the situation that the Duchess of Sussex has found herself in.
First of all, it was the way that she was holding her son, Archie, at a polo match last week.
Supposedly a fun and informal occasion, she was photographed holding her son in a position which thousands of people flocked to critique.
‘She looks like she’s about to drop him’ people commented on news stories. ‘Can’t someone teach her how to hold him?’ said others.
Even nastier were the comments which said ‘clearly she hasn’t been spending much time with him’ or ‘this is what happens when you let nannies take care of your child’.
In truth, Meghan was holding Archie in a perfectly practical way. Motherhood expert Lucy Shrimpton commented on the debacle, saying:
‘While parents will adopt their own styles of holding and comforting their babies in a range of ways, the way that Meghan is pictured holding Archie is actually a commonly recommended hold.’
So, Meghan held her baby in a perfectly safe way, and it was several days worth of international news.
Why are we so determined to believe that she is a bad mother?
Not content with raging over the way Meghan holds her baby, there was additional outrage when yesterday she opted to spend the day without her son, attending Wimbledon in the afternoon and the premiere of the Lion King (where she met Beyonce in a fairly iconic moment).
Apparently in spending a day away from her son, Meghan was sending the message that she didn’t enjoy being a parent and that social activities are more valuable to her than motherhood.
On the flip side, multiple articles about Meghan’s appearance at the Trooping of the Colour back in June describe her as being unwilling to leave her son, and struggling with the separation.
Apparently she’s both clingy and detached. Makes perfect sense, right?
Then there’s the nanny issue. It was widely reported in June that the Sussexes had got through three nannies in as many months, with Meghan being described as ‘controlling’ about who is allowed to look after her child.
Various other sources reported that Meghan had ‘forced’ potential nannies to sign ‘extensive’ non-disclosure agreements - in spite of the fact that an NDA is a standard part of working in the royal household.
When Meghan wants privacy for her family, she’s being a controlling brat. When she goes out in public she’s abandoning her child.
Why so much scrutiny? Why so much obsession with everything that she might be getting wrong?
She’s a mum. And unfortunately, that seems to mean being mum shamed.
A 2016 study found that 80% of women who have children reported being mum shamed.
The only difference between Meghan Markle and your average first-time mum is that her shaming happens in the public eye, and yours takes place in your NCT Whatsapp group, or on Facebook.
We are so willing to tell women that they’re doing it wrong - that they’re holding the baby wrong, that it’s wearing too many clothes or not enough clothes. That you should be breastfeeding, that you shouldn’t be breastfeeding. That you’re ruining the environment by using disposable nappies or being holier-than-thou by using washable ones.
There is no way to handle motherhood which doesn't result in criticism dressed up as support.
The world is desperate to tell Meghan Markle that she’s getting it wrong is because that’s what we do to new mums - royal or otherwise.
This article was written by Rebecca Reid and appeared on Grazia.
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