We moms love Mother’s Day sentiments and sweetness from our lil’ (or big) buggers! Homemade Crayola cards and glued together pieces of construction paper that mildly resemble flowers warm our heart and makes us feel loved. We wouldn’t exchange being a mom for all the freaks in California! But many moms, most in fact, belabor the demolition zone our physiques have become in bearing children.
Most women complain about, resent, or give up on their bodies after children: this got stretched out, these sag, and I can’t even tell you what happened to that! I can’t tell you how many women I have heard say “Having children destroys your body.” Men say the same. It’s a cultural belief that motherhood = decimated body.
I couldn’t disagree more.
For me one of the best parts of becoming a mom were the changes in my body and body consciousness. Actually I would go so far as to say that having children was the one of the best things that ever happened to my body-mind and here’s why…
1. I learned to listen to my body. Once I got pregnant, there was no more ignoring my body’s messages. If I ate chicken, I puked. If I didn’t nap or sleep-in those first few months, I couldn’t make it through the day. At the gym I had to adjust, turn down and incorporate alternative exercises into my schtick or risk incubator impairment. I became clear and I couldn’t use my ego to override my body. I had to listen or pay the consequences.
2. I upped my game. A few minutes after coming out Gillian was put into my arms. “Oh God, I gotta up my game!” I thought. I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be the most stellar human being in the history of (wo)mankind. I knew at that moment my life, in both meaning and direction, had shifted…there was a new sheriff in town and her name was Gillian! What I mean is that I wanted to resolve my issues, clear my baggage compartment out so that I didn’t pass my BS on to her. I became much more willing to look at my shortcomings and make an effort to improve myself.
After all, I had been given custodianship of a little soul to raise into a functional adulthood–a female person in this body-obsessed, junk-food infested culture! Feeding, diapering, and modeling a healthy way of relating to food and bodies became much more important to me. It solidified a practice.
3. The Breastfeeding Burn & Toddler Trim-Down! Everyone is so paranoid about everyone’s weight around pregnancy and childbirth!! Doctors and mothers-in-law monitor your weight every appt, then the babys’ ad nauseam. But there are 2 effortless burn & trim phases that got and kept me in great shape. Breastfeeding a newborn is like hitting the Stepmill for 45-65 minutes per day. (Do you know how many calories I burned effortlessly while watching the Today Show)? And the Toddler Trim-Down phase? I’ve never been thinner than when I had 6 mo & 3 yr old! Mamahood for me was an I-don’t-have-to-go-to-the-gym-cuz-I’ve-already-logged-40k-steps before 10 am routine. Today I am so much more flexible and creative about my workouts and squeezing stuff in here and there because I learned first hand 10 minutes of exercise is better than no minutes of exercise.
4. My body became miraculous. Probably the best part of growing, birthing and feeding a baby was the shift in how I see my body. As a young person you tend to take on society’s view of who and what you are. As a young woman you believe that you should be attractive, and have a nice physique, or that your boobs should look like this and stomach like that. But once I started growing a person (a p-e-r-s-o-n) inside my body without any conscious effort–providing everything needed to grow a human being; then giving birth, the resilience and strength of my body to endure that process for days; and finally the ability for my body to make the most perfect human food everyday and night for over a year…I was in awe. I was blown away by my body!
Prior to becoming a mom my experience of being a woman had been so superficial, so sexually-oriented around cultural female ideals that I was clueless as to the miracles and capabilities of the female body. Women are thought of as the weaker sex, can’t lift as much, easy to overpower, less muscle mass, etc. The process of motherhood completely and dramatically changed my concept of my body’s strength, beauty, and purpose. In no other endeavor have I had be so strong and so soft.
The ability and skills I’ve developed–to balance while juggling, to see strength where others see weakness, or to show up all day, everyday to take impeccable care of so many bodies/minds–are part of what has made me a better custodian of my own body. What else is good self-care but balance, listening, showing up each day, creative workouts, and finding your strength? Motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to my inner and outer physique.