It used to mildly annoy me. Then for awhile it frustrated me. And now, after having it shoved down our throats repeatedly, it kind of pisses me off.
Olivia Wilde looks incredible just three months after baby! Claire Danes was on the red carpet in a size zero just one month postpartum! I’m pretty sure Kristin Cavallari wore her skinny jeans on the way home from the hospital. And I’m almost certain Gisele Bundchen gave birth during a pilates class and finished her exercises once she delivered. These headlines are everywhere, and every day it’s a new mom that is applauded for an even better version of her body than she had before pregnancy, and she achieved it in no time.
WE GET IT. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WE GET IT.
I’m not on a media crusade here, I’ll leave that to the much more competent, much more influential people out there with the platforms to make a difference. And after really evaluating why it infuriates me like it does, it’s not even that I’m on a jealously rooted rant. (OK, a tiny part of me is jealous). Honestly, it just really makes me sad. It’s sad to feel like the only compliment our new moms receive these days has to do with how quickly they can make themselves look like they never carried and birthed a baby in the first place.
Now please understand I’m not knocking women who, whether through unwavering dedication and hard work or the jackpot of genetics, bounce back quickly. Being healthy and taking care of ourselves should be a priority, and it should definitely be acknowledged.
My problem is, there’s so much more our focus should be on when speaking about women who just gave birth. There is never a shortage of the, “you look great!”s, and “wow, it melted right off you!”s. So much so, they often feel artificial and insincere – its just something people say to new moms whether they genuinely mean it or not. While I know I got them, I don’t remember a single one. The compliments I DO remember, however, had absolutely nothing to do with my physical appearance.
I specifically remember the text I got from a dear friend (who, at the time, I didn’t even know really followed my motherhood journey). Out of the blue, she let me know how fantastic of a mother I was and how she hoped to be “a quarter of the mom that I already am”. I specifically remember the conversation I had with my husband, where he told me one of the biggest reasons he was excited to see our family grow again was because of me, because I was “such an amazing mother”. I specifically remember the conversation I had with my grandmother about how she was so impressed with all the experiences I was trying to give Tayler and all that I was exposing her to. I remember the compliments about breastfeeding, about patience, and about how hard I was working around the clock to give Tayler everything she needed. Those words all stuck with me and helped build me up because they acknowledged the kinds of qualities I think really matter to new moms. The qualities our focus should be on when speaking to new moms. Those were the compliments that reminded me my energy was being spent in the right places.
I imagine Us Weekly would have to shut down if they changed their focus. I’m not sure the headline “Olivia Wilde is an avid baby wearer!” would sell any copies. But for those of us who are around your every day new mom, the ones who don’t have night nannies, who make their own meals on a budget, and who try and squeeze in a jog or some squats when they find a free 20 minutes and their energy isn’t completely zapped – acknowledge something more than just her physical appearance. Let her know you’re in awe of how natural she is in her new role. Tell her you respect how hard she works at work and then comes home and works with that same tenacity. Let her know that despite the few hours of broken sleep she got, you admire how she’s able to keep her patience and provide lovingly for her infant all day long. Reach out to tell her you revere the fact that she has the confidence to go against the grain, knowing what she is doing is best for her and her baby.
A new mom has so much more going on in her life than only worrying about how far she is from her pre-baby pant size. Not only that, but many women love their new motherly shape and don’t want to look like they did before children. We need to acknowledge that fact and change the conversation so our new moms can focus on the things that matter and be reassured their priorities are in the right order. Compliment her heart, soul, and fierce love for her babies. Those are the qualities that are raising exceptional little people – not the inches around her waist.