The Duchess of Cambridge has admitted royal life doesn’t stop her feeling mum guilt, as she gave an insight into her childhood as well as her three pregnancies.
Kate was speaking on Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, as her nationwide survey on Early Years enters its final week.
She admitted she struggled with “mum guilt” and said her children George and Charlotte had asked why they weren’t being dropped off at school on the day the podcast was recorded, as she was at a nursery visit.
She said: “It starts from the moment you have a baby.
“I feel huge responsibility. I would have done things differently during my pregnancy now, with what I have learnt.
“I found it fascinating to see with the wellbeing of the mother, not just physically, making sure you exercise and eat healthily, but the emotional wellbeing of the mother directly impacts the baby. It’s difficult with life’s challenges but just being aware of it, I was much more in the third than the first.”
She later added: “A very wise man did say to me, about my guilt of being away for work, in a nuclear family, where parents are the sole charge, we are more like animals than we think, the more people you have around your children who are safe and loving, the better.
“It took a weight off my shoulders, because it’s not all my responsibility.”
The duchess has three children, George, six, Charlotte, four, and Louis, one.
Kate also spoke about her morning sickness, and said “I am not a very happy pregnant person”.
The duchess has been hospitalised with all three of her pregnancies, suffering hyperemesis gravidarum.
She said it also impacted Prince William adding: “He didn’t feel he could do much to help. It’s hard for everyone to see you suffering without being able to do anything.
“I wasn’t eating the things I should be eating, but the body was able to take all the good things and grow new life.”
But her hyperemesis gravidarum led her to hypno-birthing, saying she realised “the power of the mind”.
She said: “There are levels of it, I won’t say William was chanting sweet nothings at me. He wasn’t. But I wanted to do it for myself.
“I saw the power of it, the meditation and deep breathing that they teach you when I was really sick and I realised this was something I could take control of.
“Because it had been so bad during pregnancy, I quite liked labour. It was something as an event that I knew there would be an ending to.”
Kate also talked about her own childhood, saying it was a happy one and praising her parents for their dedication admitting “now I’m a parent I realise how much they gave up”.
“The simple things resonate with me the most. Life now is so busy, so distracting, the simple things like watching a fire on a rainy day, I remember that from my childhood. Going for a walk, that’s really what I try to do with my children now.
“It totally strips away all the complications, all the pressures, and those experiences mean so much to children and the world they are in, which is an adventure,” she said.
Speaking about the first time she held her eldest son Prince George, she said: “It was amazing, it is extraordinary.
“How can the human body do that?
“Also, I was relieved.”
And she said they had kept the gender a surprise so did not know they were having a boy.
The duchess said it was “slightly terrifying” knowing there was so much of the world’s media waiting outside the Lindo Wing for her.
She said: “Both William and I were really conscious that this was something everyone was excited about, and we were hugely grateful for the support.
“But equally it was coupled with a newborn baby, and inexperience of parents and the uncertainty of what that held, so there was mixed emotions.”
Kate said she was desperate to get home though, because hospital held the memories of being ill in the early stages of pregnancy for her.
The duchess said the period in the early days could be very lonely for mothers, who don’t know where they can go for help once they have left the hospital.
She said: “You can read all the books, but that’s almost worse, because then that plays into ‘things should happen like this’ and again it’s easier to think of what’s really important for that child.”
Speaking about what she would like to give her children, she mentioned a photo she has of Charlotte smelling a bluebell, saying “moments like that mean so much to me as a parent.
“I try everyday to put moments like that in - even if they’re small.”
Asked who she would write a letter to about motherhood, Kate said she would have liked to write back to herself, telling herself in her first pregnancy what she had learnt.
She said: “It’s the simple things that really make the difference, it’s not whether you have done every single drop off and every single pick up but it’s those quality moments where you are properly listening to them, properly understanding what they feel, and if things are going wrong, understanding how I am feeling as a mother, am I making this worse because it’s bringing up things I feel and not just focusing on them.”
She also said she wanted her three children to remember moments like going to the beach and getting soaking wet and failing to light a bonfire, not a stressful home and trying to do homework.
The pair also compared their three children who are similar ages, with Kate saying she is a “hands-on mum” and wants to “do the best for my children”.
Kate spoke about her survey through Ipsos MORI and her passion for Early Years work, one she has held since marrying William.
Talking about meeting people struggling with abuse, addiction and homeless, she said: “The hardest social challenges really get traced right back to the early years.
“What we experience in our childhood really has a lifelong impact on our future health and happiness.”
The duchess said while she had done a lot of work with experts and doctors, she wanted to get the views of parents and caregivers who are doing the day to day work with children, which is why she launched the survey.
She confessed: “There’s stuff I would have done differently right at the beginning considering what I’ve learned now.
“But it has been shocking to see how challenges we see in society, so much is connected through poor mental health and then often traumatic experiences in early childhood.
“That seemed important to look at before I had children.”
Kate said that while there was a perception of those doing well versus those struggling, there were universal issues that went across backgrounds.
Giovanna added that mums she had spoken to had shared experiences, referencing mum guilt for those who work, sleepless nights, or thinking they were a “terrible mum”.
Speaking about her 5 Big Questions survey, Kate shared a story of a mother who told her she had been on Google to get the answers, and Kate had told her “there’s no right or wrong - I’m not going to mark you at the end!”
Kate also praised Giovanna for getting mothers to speak openly about their experiences, and stopping stigma and judgement so that more families would reach out for services in their areas.
Kate answered Giovanna’s three snap questions at the end, finishing the sentences:
Being a mum means: compromise
Since being a mum I: have found a new enjoyment out of life
I’m happy when: I am with my family, out in the countryside and we are all filthy dirty.
The 5 Big Questions survey closes on 21 February at 10.30pm GMT.