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Pregnancy

Doctor On ‘TODAY’ Show Slams Mommyrexia As Part Of Perfectionist Culture Imposed On Mothers

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The mommyrexia trend — women trying to look thin during their pregnancy — is getting more and more coverage as doctors urge women feeling such sentiments to actively find help. This morning though on TODAY, NBC chief medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman had some very strong words to describe the phenomenon, specifically as a “vulgar” problem that plagues the rich, white, and cosmopolitan. She also alluded to a prominent facet of “momism” — the idea that all mothers as well as their children should be “perfect.”

Dr. Snyderman cited celebrity culture as big component of mommyrexia, but also tied the phenomenon to the larger cultural pressures of momism:

“At a time when we’re talking about Africa’s greatest famine in 60 years, I find this particularly vulgar…[the idea] that your body is deformed while you are pregnant…We have become cuckoo about hating our bodies, and this self loathing…pregnancy should be nine months of root beer floats and bliss, and deal with it afterwards. I think this is an Upper East Side, white girl, obnoxious problem…We want perfect babies, perfect bodies, we want perfect lives. I just find the whole thing vulgar.”

While I wish Dr. Snyderman had committed to the term “momism,” her denouncements of mommyrexia for reasons of imposed perfectionism on women with children convey the definition almost exactly. Abnormal standards of beauty are culturally upheld for all women, but contemporary mothers raising children in our post-millennial world are now vulnerable to a new set of expectations that requires them to not only maintain flawless appearances, but also raise superhuman children who do exceeding well in school thanks to cloth diapers, organic baby food, and early learning initiatives. All the while, they are told that they don’t need sleep, that they should feel guilty for vacationing without their children, that having a career will destroy their families, and that they only as good as their size zero maternity wear.

Momism repackages these anti-woman mythologies into the worry many women feel about being “good mothers” by capitalizing on their fears about their bodies, their childrearing practices, and even their children’s health. Mommyrexia is just one of many cultural attacks on mothers — one that needs solid push back from women who are not buying in.

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