I am writing an ongoing series about my thoughts on feminism and modern motherhood, if you can call a few sparsely written posts a “series.”
I don’t love my post baby body. I don’t hate my post baby body, but I don’t love it like I did when it was a twenty year old dancer’s body. I appreciate it. I really do. It’s healthy, it serves it purpose well, and it actually still looks pretty good considering how rarely I work out. It made some people, and then fed them for a couple of years. That’s really cool, and I am in awe of that process. It’s just not the same body it was. It looks different, and feels different, and I feel differently in it. It’s achier, it pees more often, and sleeps much less, it revels in snuggles and then feels touched out, and it has a literal scar from giving birth (although, I actually quite like the scar). I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on these things. I have my moments when I’m not comfortable with how my body looks, but every woman feels that way.
I have written and deleted this post several times over the past few weeks (I blog a lot more often than you think! Ha!), but I haven’t been able to work my feelings out well until now. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what bothered me about these seemingly friendly “love your body” posts that go viral almost weekly. They’re often beautifully shot images of new mothers in their underwear holding their babies. Or just a meme with a picture of a hot mom in a bikini who happens to have stretch marks, but no! She’s calling them her “tiger stripes” because she’s fierce like a goddamn tiger! The accompanying words are always along the lines of “don’t compare your body to models’ bodies; these are REAL women and they’re beautiful.” Yes, they are beautiful, but we actually already know what “real” women look like. We have friends, and mirrors, and we go to the beach, and countless other public spaces and we see what women look like. We haven’t as a rule always been nice about what we’ve seen, and I love that that is improving, but it feels condescending to have strangers on the internet assume that I need pictures of other women’s bellies to feel good about my own. I think they’re missing the point. We might compare ourselves to the hot mom of four on Instagram, but we also know that most of that world is fabricated. What moms are comparing themselves to (at least in my case) are our former selves. I don’t care if another mom has fat rolls or stretch marks; I care that I do.
Before you tell me not to care about my tummy and ass, let me tell you to kindly shut your mouth. I know that by comparing myself to my younger, fitter self I’m technically comparing myself to society’s ideals. I know that it’s not healthy or smart to try to get my 33 year old body to look like my 23 year old body – kids or no kids. Don’t worry; I don’t have enough time or energy to try very hard. I really can assure you that these thoughts don’t take up much space in my mind, but they’re not going to go away. Internalized ideals don’t vanish because you’ve seen a picture of another woman. These feelings are ingrained. This feels like another burden. This is another way we can’t succeed. Honestly it’s more stressful to fail at not loving my tiger stripes, than to just acknowledge that I’m never going to and move on.