Even those who were highly anticipating Oprah’s interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle probably found themselves stunned at various revelations made throughout last night’s two-hour special. Pick any number of headlines you’ve probably already seen — from Meghan’s suicidal thoughts to concern from at least one member of the royal family about how dark their children’s skin colour might be — and there is plenty to talk about today. But as a parenting writer, I naturally filtered a lot of their revelations through that particular lens.
The interview was full of reminders about how good parents prioritise the health, safety, and happiness of the whole family, even when the right thing is also the hard thing. Here are some parenting lessons we can glean from the decisions Harry and Meghan have made.
You can make hard choices
I have never been royalty — nor have I married into royalty — but I have to imagine that extricating oneself and one’s family from a powerful centuries-old system that is quite literally your whole world would be hard. Especially when every move you make is reported on and judged by a group of tabloid media who seem hellbent on painting you in the most negative light, I’d think it would be easier to try to fall in line than to draw more criticism by attempting to pave your own path.
But when given the choice between continuing to be actual British royalty (however much oppression that brings you), and breaking free so you and your children could lead a somewhat more normal life, they made the arguably harder choice. And in doing so, they set an early example for their own children (son, Archie, and the daughter Meghan is now pregnant with) that doing what is right for you, even when it’s challenging, is better than doing what is expected of you.
We are our kids’ best advocates
There are moments in every parent’s journey when advocating for your child becomes necessary — even when it’s difficult or awkward. A parent might need to advocate for their child’s specific learning needs at school, despite pushback about the services that school wants to provide. Or we might need to advocate on their behalf to get them the mental health services they need. In Meghan and Harry’s case, they say they needed to advocate for their son’s physical safety when he was denied a royal title (prince) that would have allowed for him to receive personal security.
To advocate for your child to receive their own security detail isn’t something most of us will ever have to do, but we also don’t have to curtsey to our grandmother-in-law. Ultimately, though, they were denied, which is at least part of the reason they picked up their kid and headed out the castle door.
We need to prioritise our own mental health
When you’re a new parent who is struggling with any kind of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concern, it can be hard to ask for help. After all, it should be the happiest time of your life! It should be all about the baby and the baby’s needs — not yours. Even in the most “normal” of situations, it takes a lot of courage to admit you’re struggling and to ask for help.
But when Meghan began having suicidal thoughts — to the degree that she attended a royal function rather than stay home alone, for fear of what she might do — she did ask for help. She told her husband how she felt and says she asked a senior royal for help (and was told that seeking inpatient care would not be possible for her).
Even now, talking about her experience in such a public and vulnerable way sends an important message to all new parents out there — and to her own children. If you are struggling, ask for help; because everyone deserves to get the help they need without feeling ashamed that they need it.
[referenced id=”1031640″ url=”https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2020/10/parents-dont-need-self-care-they-need-help/” thumb=”https://www.gizmodo.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2020/06/floral-bath-bombs-300×169.png” title=”Parents Don’t Need Self-Care, They Need Help” excerpt=”Even before the pandemic hit, it became popular to prioritise “self care.” Parenting podcasts like One Bad Mother have long discussed the challenges parents (particularly mothers) face in finding balance: One of their signature phrases is “I am a self,” a fact we’re meant to remind ourselves of when we…”]
It’s important to stand up to bullies
Standing up for yourself is something most parents want to their children to be able to do. But when you’re royalty, you’re most often expected to keep your mouth shut for the benefit of the greater (family) good. However, that is bullshit when you are experiencing racism not just from the public and the media, but from within your own family, too.
In detailing the ways in which they feel they were mistreated and silenced, Harry and Meghan are setting the example for their kids that their voices matter — even (or maybe especially) when you’re going up against an entity much larger than yourself.
Rescuing animals is a good thing to do
In perhaps the sweetest moment of the interview, Oprah visits the couple’s Montecito, California home where they live with their son and two family dogs (at least one of which Meghan says she rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky). Dogs obviously make wonderful pets, but so do hens, which the family also recently rescued from a factory farm. They even built a hen house with a sign that designates it as “Archie’s Chick Inn: Established 2021,” which is all kinds of wholesome and sweet.