What is so wrong with looking like a mum?
I live in a cool, young neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and sometimes the grocery store is a little intimidating, because everyone shopping there is so fashionable. Once I stood in line behind Anne Hathaway, I'm not even kidding, and she was buying some kale. She looked great.
I'm nine months pregnant now, and only one pair of shoes still fits on my bloated, shapeless feet. I vaguely remember a time when I had ankles, but it feels like a dream. A happy, lovely, absurd dream. Maybe I was also flying in it, and there was a store full of beautiful gowns that were being given away for free... A friend of mine who has two kids recently reassured me that I would be able to get my body back after popping this baby out (and I do intend to "pop" her out, as quickly as possible). She told me my ankles would return and they would be slender once more, and everything would be OK. Thank god, right?
I see these mums everywhere, and they are so toned and put-together. They are pushing a stroller with an infant in it, so it's pretty clear that they're mums, but that's the only clue. They have neat little waists and they are sometimes, shockingly, wearing tall, sexy heels. Their hair does not have a trace of spit up or poop in it. It looks freshly washed, and it falls perfectly, with a sweep that suggests a mastery of personal grooming that I have never approached, even on my girliest days. Everywhere I look, I see the women who would be described as MILFs. As in DAYUM, that is one FIIINE lookin' mama!
This is New York City, where bouncing back is what we do recreationally. Where being fit and fashionable and whip-thin is practically spelled out on our leases. "The Landlord has a right to evict you with no more than thirty days notice for unlawful weight gain..." So maybe it's not that surprising that the mums in the park look fit and fashionable, too.
But it bothers me a little anyway. I feel this subtle, creeping pressure, already. To not have such fat feet. To have ankles. To bounce back, after the baby. To look sexy in the park, with my sexy baby carriage that matches my shoes.
But when I decided to have a baby, I had this crazy thought. It was really probably insane, so just stop me and laugh if you need to. I thought: I want to let having a baby change me. I want it to make me think differently. I want to enter a new phase of life. I want to have new priorities. Like the baby, for example. But also, not like my hair.
And this is not at all, by the way, to say that mothers who have fabulous hair don't love their babies. Some of them just can't help but have fabulous hair-it's genetic. No, but seriously: these things obviously aren't mutually exclusive. But all the focus on women's appearances in our culture IS mutually exclusive. All the emphasis on staying toned no matter what and looking great no matter what and looking, as a mum, a lot like you didn't even have a baby-that stuff all suggests that being a MILF is more important than being a mother.
I imagine myself, schlumping through the park, wearing something shapeless because I have not immediately shed the baby weight, spit up in my hair, carrying my new baby in a baby carrier that I will soon somehow figure out how to use (they are surprisingly un-self-explanatory!). I imagine that the fashionable, tall-heeled new mums will glance at me and then exchange a look among themselves. What a sorry sight I'll be. That woman has really let herself go.
And I hope that I will manage to feel good about them being right.
I have a sort of weird goal for new motherhood: I want to let myself go.
I want to not think about it at the time. I want to let go of these beauty-related rules and hang-ups and feel sort of liberated and appreciative of all the crazy new stuff my body turns out to be able to do. Make a baby, for instance. Grow it. Birth it, let's hope. Feed it. Carry it around. What the hell is so wrong with looking like a mum, when a mum can do all of that? It seems sort of badass. No entirely. Entirely badass. Bring it on.
Kate Fridkis blogs about body image issues at her blog, Eat the Damn Cake.
- Daily Life