In the most brilliant (and entertaining) piece of journalism on the topic I have read in the recent past, Janice Min nailed it when she chastised Hollywood for putting the pressure on new moms to be smokin’ hot after having a baby. Apparently, thin and attractive are no longer enough. We’ve got to be like Beyonce and Heidi Klum.
Janice’s article focuses primarily on post-partum weight loss, but I’m irked by what I see as an overall upping of the ante that spills over into every aspect of Mom’s physical appearance. A mother could easily spend her child’s college tuition on clothing, shoes, handbags, makeup, hair products, and accessories for every occasion and season, and I only wish it stopped there. Simple mascara is no longer good enough; now we have to get eyelash extensions. Rather than purchasing a good piece of shapewear for a special occasion dress, we’re encouraged to get herbal body wraps to detoxify our cellulite and smooth out those nasty bumps. And as for body hair? We’ve gone from shaving our legs and underarms to paying hundreds of dollars to get it lasered away.
It’s just too much, and I, for one, am tired of it. I only have so much time and energy to try to conform to our culture’s crazy definition of beautiful, and then I’ve got to get back to the real work of being a mom.
Please don’t misunderstand me. My regular hair cut and color is sacrosanct on the schedule. (In fact, I am quite ironically typing this up at the salon while I wait under foil for my hair color to take.) I exercise regularly and apply makeup and anti-wrinkle creams daily. I grab Groupons for nice, price-slashed jewelry when I can, and if I’m feeling really self-indulgent I’ll go clothes shopping somewhere other than Target in between grabbing paper towels and breakfast cereal. Making the most of what I’ve got and looking attractive is definitely important to me (and I will never argue against the truth that a mom who feels good about her physical appearance is going to be a happier mom for her children), but I totally resent the ramped up, in-your-face standards that permeate every square inch of the media. It leaves me feeling like no matter what I do, it will never be good enough.
Distracted by the bedazzled nails, eyelash extensions and hyper-accessorized outfits of the other mothers around me, I sometimes have to ask: Just how many hours does a “hot” mom spend fixing herself up in a day/week/month? There are the hours spent dressing and accessorizing, the hours spent doing the hair and makeup, the hours spent shopping for all the stuff, the hours spent getting hair and nails done professionally, and the hours spent exercising at the gym. At what expense are we moms spending all this time on our physical appearance? And what else could we be doing with our time and energy as the mothers of the next generation?
When I see moms who seem only one or two steps away from becoming like the Capital people in The Hunger Games, I can’t help but remember my own mother, grandmother, and other female role models I admired during my growing up years. They were women who made me feel important. Women who made the world both a comfortable as well as comforting place. Their lives didn’t revolve around their looks. They revolved around their homes and their families. What they looked like in terms of the styles of the day or the standards of Hollywood wasn’t even on my radar, so I can’t imagine it was too terribly important to them. Yes, they took care of themselves on a daily basis, but “dressing up” was for Sundays or going to town. I can still see my grandmother — a woman who lived and worked on a farm in Iowa — putting on her pillbox hat and gloves to go into town. And as far as I can remember, my mom only wore nice jewelry, perfume and high heels on Sunday — not to go to the park, and certainly not to go to the grocery store! No one ever expected these women to be sexy. Sexy? Janice explained the turning of the tide well when she said, “ . . . in the same way that gray hair went from natural to unacceptable in part because of Clairol’s relentless marketing in the 1960s, ubiquitous imaging of ‘sexy’ moms has rewired society’s expectations.”
Where will all these crazy antics stop? Where do we draw the line? I once had a conversation with a mother who had just given birth to her sixth child. She was talking about the possibility of someday getting plastic surgery because she didn’t want to be “that” mother of the bride. Huh? What ever happened to growing old gracefully? To believing that the experience and wisdom of a lifetime was more noble and beautiful than having a perfect body?
What is the point of all my ranting and raving anyway? Partly just to vent, but mostly to rally other mothers like myself in a counter-culture movement to reject the craziness by bringing things down a notch or two. I’d love to see more mothers pushing back against the insanity and asserting that the nitty gritties of motherhood really are more important than looking like a “sexy” celebrity mom. I’m not talking about letting the pendulum swing back to a place of homeliness and carelessness, but rather to find a happy medium between slovenly and sexy. Maybe that means more casual clothing, maybe it means less jewelry and makeup, or maybe it means — heaven forbid! — a merciful extra five pounds. It will mean different things to different people because it is actually more of a mindset than anything. I have several friends who I would classify in the “Fancy Nancy” category and yet they resist this Hollywood mentality in every way.
The reality is, most moms I know don’t try to fit the celebrity mom mold, but the pressure still exists nonetheless. So to every “regular” mom out there feeling the pressure, I’d like to be one more voice encouraging you to resist the insanity and to know that it’s not just okay, but it’s normal to want to be, well, normal. And please, let’s keep it that way. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in living in a world where the new normal is glitter toes and a face-lift.
I may be old fashioned, but I think being a mom in the center of family life should be about the stuff that really matters, and being a sexy mom just isn’t that high on the list.
QUESTION: How important is it for you to be a sexy mom? How much time and energy do you spend keeping up your physical appearance? How do you strike a balance between looking and feeling good about your physical appearance and going overboard? What is overboard?
CHALLENGE: Find that balance, resist that pressure, and take it down a notch!