New mothers have been feeling a lot of stress lately. I mean, outside from the stress of caring for a newborn, trying to breastfeed, getting no sleep and listening to the most stressful sound in the universe. (That would be a baby crying.) Aside from that whole idea of keeping another human being alive that depends solely on you, there’s a new pressure facing new moms. That’s the pressure to lose all that baby weight almost immediately after giving birth.
It used to be that moms all had a friend of a friend who left the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans. We talked about that random lady in hushed tones, annoyed with her for possibly existing and making the rest of us feel bad. We rolled our eyes at the idea of that lady, even as we packed our pregnancy yoga pants into our hospital bag. Sure, losing the baby weight was a thought back then, but it wasn’t a huge concern. It was something you worried about once your little one’s first birthday rolled around.
Now, the pressure to lose baby weight immediately has hit an all-time high. Celebrities are partnering with Weight Watchers before they even give birth. Models are walking the runway weeks after delivery. Tabloids are shoving pictures of “Post Baby Bikini Bodies” down our throats from the supermarket aisles every week. We’re decided that losing the baby weight is basically a mandate for new moms in their first couple of months.
And oddly enough, one of the women responsible for that shift in mommy culture is now lamenting it’s influence. In the pages of the New York Times today, Janice Min asked, “Can a Mom Get a Break?” Min, a previous editor for US Weekly and their constant new mommy gossip coverage, is a new mom herself. She, like many other moms, is having a hard time dropping the pounds as quickly as she’d like. She’s realizing that all those immediately svelte mothers that her magazine was covering weren’t exactly the norm. She describes the new pressure like this:
“You see, in today’s celebrity narrative, just two kinds of desirable maternal female physiques exist: the adorable gestating one (with bellies called “bumps”) and its follow-up, the body that boomerangs back from birth possibly even better than before. Me? I’m currently stranded on an island like the one on “Lost,” only this one is inhabited exclusively by still-pudgy moms struggling to find their way back.”
That island is not alone. There are a whole lot of mothers who are there, feeling like they’re failing to meet the new expectations.
Min seems to want to undo some of the cultural changes her own work helped usher in. She wonders how to tear down “our ideal of this near-emaciated, sexy and well-dressed Frankenmom we’ve created.” I think that the only way we’re going to achieve that is to stop holding up those rare “friend of a friend” moms as if they are the ideal. We have to stop harping on celebrity moms and analyzing every postpartum moment. We need tabloids, like Min’s current employer The Hollywood Reporter, to stop sensationalizing one woman and her baby weight loss.
Even while decrying the intense pressure moms are under, Min seems unable to let go of the celebrity ideal. She qualifies, “We all can learn a little from people whose profession is to be attractive. If our livelihood depended on wearing a swimsuit in front of millions, we’d probably put down the doughnut too.” But the fact is that most of us aren’t getting paid to wear a size zero, and yet we’re still feeling the same pressure. We’re allowing models and actresses to dictate how the rest of us are expected to behave.
Moms spend years explaining to their children that celebrities aren’t role models. We tell our girls that the Katy Perry’s of the world shouldn’t be their inspiration. We direct them towards everyday girls who use their intelligence and independence to make a difference. Maybe moms need to listen to their ow advice.
Moms need to stop looking up to celebrities. We need to stop assuming that they can be our role models, as mothers or as women.