Hey, moms. We see you living with these unfamiliar and uncharted bodies post-childbirth. We see you looking at magazine covers praising celebrity moms for “getting their body back” in just six weeks. We see your frustration, confusion, and struggle.
We get it.
We get what the magazines don’t get: that some of these changes to your appearance could be irreversible. We get that your priorities have shifted massively, and fussing over how you look has become an unrealistic luxury. In other words, we know why you didn’t get your body back in six weeks, 12 weeks, 52 weeks, and we therefore know why it makes headlines when a celebrity does it.
It’s unrealistic. Why? There’s a lot going on after you have a baby, and a lot of it could be conspiring against your best efforts and intentions.
Things like this…
You’re Not Sleeping Well
The vast majority of babies are incapable of sleeping through the night before they reach the age of four or five months old, meaning the lucky ones among you are operating on five hours of sleep per night. The more harried-looking moms may tell you that this trend continues well into preschool (although hopefully that’s rare).
Sleep deprivation has a very tangible effect on your body’s ability to function. You will find yourself reaching for sweets and processed foods much more often, because they’re a quick and easy source of energy for your body – which at this point is struggling to simply hold you in a standing position, let alone get you through a spin class.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t squeeze a workout from a depleted body. Until your child is regularly sleeping through the night, your biggest focus should be getting adequate rest whenever and however you can. Workouts will come later.
You’re Not as Mobile With Kids in Tow
Nap time, mealtime, school time, bedtime – your entire day has suddenly become structured around the schedules of your children, and that really limits what activities you can do, and where you can go. Even something as simple as pushing a stroller around your neighborhood might seem like a ridiculous notion, given factors like proximity to nap time, or the mood of your kids.
Your home becomes your main base of operations, and for some moms, it can be really difficult to leave it. Grocery shopping, a quick check on your herb garden, or a 10-minute chat with a neighbor all used to be accessible sources of sunlight, fresh air, and exercise. Now, each one of those things requires strategic planning.
If you feel trapped in your house, now is the time to start reaching out for help. Ask friends, family or neighbors if they could take the kids for an hour here and there, so you can get some vitamin D and exercise.
Your Shopping List Revolves Around the Kids
You might be perfectly happy eating garlicky Brussels sprouts drizzled in olive oil, but your three-year-old sure isn’t. It can be tricky for parents to afford grocery shopping for two completely separate menus: what the adults want to eat, and what the kids will tolerate. To save money, time, and sanity, most adults just buy whatever it is the kids will eat, and they eat that too.
This might mean many of your dinners begin to consist of prepackaged processed foods, and after a while, that kind of diet can begin to show. Your body, your complexion, and even your hair may not look as great as it did when you were eating and preparing healthier foods.
Wherever possible, look for affordable ways to stock up on healthy foods for you, while looking for fun ways to get your child to expand their menu.
You’re Not Applying (Or Paying For!) Skin Care/Hair Care Treatments
Before kids, you may have thought nothing of dropping a ton of money on a specialty eye cream, or perhaps a deep conditioning treatment for your hair. However, the cost of things like diapers, school supplies, and groceries now has to take precedence.
Luckily, there are thousands of suggestions out there for inexpensive homemade skin care and hair care treatments that won’t break the bank, and that won’t take up too much of your time. Instead of abandoning your personal care routines altogether, take a new approach, and try them at home.
Stress shows. Whether it’s dark circles under your eyes, bitten fingernails, frazzled hair, or creeping weight gain. The bottom line is, you probably won’t see a lot of progress toward your target “look” if you’re under too much stress.
If we knew the magic formula to eliminating stress, we’d share it here. The answer is going to be different for everybody. So our best advice is to come up with ways to reduce stress in your life, and to ask for help in making that happen. Whether that means asking a partner to take over bedtime duties, putting the kids in nursery school two or three times a week, or taking your friends up on that offer of making dinner or helping clean your house, try to make it happen.
Moms are already doing so much; it seems like asking them to snap back to their pre-baby bodies on top of it all is just unfair. Here’s a different way to look at it: you are building a family, and that takes monumental focus and energy. It’s perfectly okay to divert your attention away from bikini season and on to your children instead. Your children are more rewarding anyway.
But one last note: while it is difficult to put yourself first after becoming a mom, it doesn’t mean you always have to put yourself last. You matter too, and a mom who feels healthy, rested, and not too stressed is a more effective parent. Self-care isn’t selfish, and taking that time for yourself will help everyone in your family – not just you.