The year was 2016, and a wave of body positivity swept the nation. Articles and think pieces flooded the media praising the newfound courage of parents to show off round bellies, butts, and back hair? Oh that’s right, this movement was in celebration of “dad bod”. While beer guts and bearded faces graced the cover of newspapers, and online articles praised men who rocked their soft and squishy features, women all across the country were still reading “Tips and Tricks to Bounce Back from Pregnancy”, and how to lose that “mom bod”.
On top of the struggle to adjust to your new life as a parent, and the pressure of being a perfect one at that, the last thing a mom needs is to constantly judge herself. Go ahead and tell a mom how important it is to squeeze in that 30 minute power cycling class between her hour commute home and making dinner. Consciously, we know how ridiculous that sounds, but unconsciously our eyes are drawn to magazines and articles that give miracle solutions to losing the baby belly.
We’re not saying that eating a balanced diet and getting the recommended amount of movement isn’t important. Postpartum healing and breastfeeding are directly affected by this. But many women feel that their obsession with getting fit and “bouncing back” negatively impacts the time they spend with their babies and children, and the relationship they have with themselves if they fail at getting super fit. The belly we loved looking at everyday while it grew with a little one becomes a symbol of resentment once the baby is born.
These types of body image issues didn’t develop with the baby, they are implanted on our brains at an extremely young age by all forms of media, and most importantly, by our own moms. The Common Sense Media report found that more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. By age 7, one in four kids has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior, the report said. Psychologists note that talking negatively about yourself or others in front of children increases the likelihood that they will see themselves as wrong and in need of fixing. Where does the cycle end?
Women are constantly fighting against the idea that our bodies are not our own, and that they can be commodified by industries and sold back to us as weapons against our own sense of worth and self esteem. That fight will not end anytime soon, but as moms we can play our part in stemming the tide against feeling shame over our bodies by teaching our children to respect themselves, and reject the idea that there’s one perfect way to look. If we can impart that lesson onto younger generations, we might finally be able to embrace it ourselves.