There are two times in life in which parents later regret a great deal many things:
- Most of the experiences they had in their younger days
- The first year after having their first child
The common thread between the two, of course, is that both are littered with an exorbitant amount of hubris, the kind that surfaces when your body is deprived of sleep and nutrients but your world is fertile with carbohydrates and well-meaning experts.
I take exception to people who say such self-important things like “I told you so” in reference to both one’s younger days and the new baby months, so I won’t say that here. As is the case with youth’s transgressions – cheap wine, perms and lovers who write bad poetry and checks – you can’t avoid certain activities after having a baby, either. You need to live the experience; we’re all unpolished rocks and there’s no shortcut to the shine.
But if I had the chance to go back in time and tell the me of June 2011 anything? I would tell her this:
“Be kind to yourself. No, really. Do it.”
Without exception, I tell new moms that being kind to themselves should be their only goal. Weight loss, self-improvement and the attendant components to that effort are such insane tasks to add to things like figuring out first-hand how to grow a human being. Considering what a new mom’s body just accomplished, I’ve often wondered why we’re all so quick to white-wash away the experience anyway.
I understand the compulsion from a physical vantage. The months post-childbirth are a bit of a blur of rubbery midsections and cracked nipples. Sometimes vice versa. You feel like holy hell for a long time.
Even before giving birth, women spend nearly a year getting used to their pregnant bodies, and this presumably after spending an agonizing lifetime trying to come to terms with the body they had before sperm met egg. To add insult to hemorrhoid-riddled injury, women are expected post-delivery to find peace with yet another version of this collection of skin and bones that carries around their hearts and souls.
Your heart and soul, of course, are the only things that really matter, in case you need a reminder that you’re not only lumpy and undesirable, but you’re also decidedly shallow if you express any measure of vanity. Look at you! Mother-of-the-Year already and your kid can’t even indulge in the pleasure of slamming a door in your face or rolling her eyes at you!
Such is the mad rush of becoming this new-old version of ourselves. We’re either subconsciously apologizing for having become mothers or trying to deny those parts of us that may not be as maternal as we’d like. My daughter was probably around 18 months before I had my footing and realized the folly in trying to push either agenda on myself. I’d love to tell you that my efforts were firmly rooted in noble intentions but they weren’t always.
Especially with a closet filled clothes that didn’t fit, coupled with an array of photos showcasing a few extra chins.
I’m still an advocate for health, and I’m strongly an advocate for some form of exercise as soon as a new mom can manage it. I find no drawback in making a woman’s precious Me Time devoted to her well-being. But waving the banner of health and fitness should never be what amounts to a ruse because a mom thinks she owes perfection to the world. She doesn’t owe her sexuality to the world, nor does she owe her moral fiber and character to it.
The only thing she really owes the world is her best effort in not raising a jerk. And even then she can be forgiven since in the beginning there is little one can excel at when you’re that tired.
But believing that moms don’t owe the world anything is hard, thanks to things such as People magazine’s link-baiting headline to an article assuring us that a mere six days after giving birth, Kim Kardashian is anxious to “get her body back.” It was hard to believe that a year ago as we watched new mom Jessica Simpson try to keep up her end of the contract she signed with Weight Watchers, and that seemed proof-positive that ideals are just that.
We laypersons are lucky in that we don’t need to employ publicists to ensure the world that its only point of engagement with us will be back in no time. Make no mistake – people like Kim Kardashian seem to willingly play the game, if not rewrite its rules, and so I only marginally feel sympathy for her. Such a truism doesn’t mean I’m not filled with sorrow, though, knowing there is a new mom out there right now, too frazzled to discern night from day, much less celebrity from reality, who will read People magazine and make a silent promise to steadfastly follow the diet that Kim will no doubt endorse as a result of that article and be better better best before we know it.
Just you wait.