As a mom to two small kids with limited time for my own fitness regime, very little gets my goat (and by that I mean pisses me off) more than gossipy reports on how fast today’s celeb mommies drop baby weight. Sure, a small part of it is jealousy. I’ll fess up right now to wishing I had a nutritionist, trainer, and live-in nanny to get me back on track. But the part that I find more troubling is the implication that new moms’ post-partum body transformations need to happen immediately and thoroughly, lest they risk becoming totally unworthy and forgettable.
The poster girl for this phenomenon is no doubt supermodel Heidi Klum, who (over the past decade) kicked things up a notch by walking the Victoria’s Secret runway eight weeks after giving birth to her third child and five weeks after giving birth to her fourth child. However, girlfriend is a total slacker compared to models Miranda Kerr (a.k.a. Mrs. Orlando Bloom), who returned to the runway barely two months after giving birth to her son Flynn, and Vogue regular Anna Freemantle, who strutted her stuff just nine days after delivering her second child.
And the pressure doesn’t end there. Especially not if you’re Mariah Carey who gave birth at age 41 to twins in April 2011. “She is getting [the baby weight] off,” Mariah’s husband, Nick Cannon, recently told OK magazine. “She is about to be 1990 again!”
Seriously, Mr. Mariah Carey? You’re really going to publicly call on your wife to look like she did when she was twenty—and make women everywhere feel like total failures if they don’t manage to erase all traces of parenting, aging, living? Aiiight.
If that’s how you’re going to play it, then this seems like a great time to trot out the ol’ what-if-men-had-to-do-it comparison. So here goes: What if middle-aged fathers (whose bodies aren’t even subjected to the physical traumas of childbirth) were expected to get back to their college-jock selves in weeks—days!—of a newborn arriving? What if men had to spend their time, financial resources, energy, and brainpower on devising new ways to deprive themselves so they didn’t even gain weight in the first place? And what if men came to be considered irrelevant and largely invisible if they didn’t? Like just about everything else pertaining to the beauty ideals women are measured against, men just wouldn’t stand for it. And we shouldn’t either.
To make sure my point of view on this matter wasn’t totally out of whack, I checked in with Claire Mysko, author of Does this Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? And she confirmed that, in fact, it’s not me—it’s them.
“The idea that weight loss should be a top priority for new mothers is incredibly flawed—and really all about profit,” Claire, who’s a new mom herself, found time to write to me in an e-mail. “Women are made to feel lazy if they don’t focus on losing the baby weight the second after they give birth because the more they feel like they’re slacking off, the more likely they are to drop dollars on diet plans, body shapers, celebrity fitness DVDs, etc.”
Yawn. I’m so tired of industries creating insecurities in women just so they can sell us products and lifestyle trends to fix what was never really broken. So the next time I come across a report of how some model left the maternity ward to make it to a Marie Claire photo shoot, I’m going to resist picking it up to find out her secret and just continue enjoying mine (which is that my body after baby doesn’t need to bounce back to any standards but my own).
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty,” a body image guide for teens.