Sunday 23 August saw Jessica Ennis-Hill take the gold at the World Championships only 13 months after the giving birth to her son. Having recently become a mother myself I am only too aware of the hectic lifestyle attached to first time parenting, however with celebrities across the board showcasing that it is possible to regain your pre-pregnancy physique, is there now an additional pressure on mothers to not only raise their children but also to look good whilst doing it?
A recent image released by pram company Bugaboo saw model Ymre Stiekema jogging with her pram wearing a very revealing two piece. The campaign sparked controversy throughout social media and saw mothers outraged at the suggestion that they could look so toned and lean post- pregnancy, but what about those of us who do achieve our fitness goals post-partum? My son was born on New Years Eve and by February I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans. On sharing my progress via social media I was hounded with comments such as 'why not focus more on your baby then yourself.' It seemed that I was being judged for pumping iron at the gym, rather then solely pumping breast milk into a bottle. However, it wasn't these comments that bothered me most. My real pet peeve were the suggestions that I had clearly 'snapped back' into shape. My weight-loss and toning achievements are results of hard work and dedication, not simply sitting around and relying on my gene pool. Yes, having a high fitness level pre-pregnancy does help your body to get active again post-labor but this alone is simply not enough.
On Tweeting about Ennis-Hill's success one Twitter member promptly replied 'Winning the gold and being a mum? What a way to make me feel fat and lazy.' To which I felt the need to respond 'Why not inspired and motivated?' Is it really fair to point the finger of blame at the women achieving their goals? Perhaps as women we should actually be looking into our own lives and seeing what makes us feel so intimidated and judgmental? If it's achieved in the right way, why not applaud mothers who find time to take care of themselves and their family?
A report entitled 'Two for the price of one' from the department for Culture, Media and Sport published by the Government Equalities Office in June 2014, written by Susie Orbach and Holli Ruben, looks at how a preoccupation with body image can be unconsciously transmitted down to children even in the first few months of life. The document states that 'the emotional attitude the mother brings is sewn into the fabric of her relating to the baby and if she has a stable body image she will weather the challenges which mothering an infant provoke'.
Holli Ruben is also quoted as saying 'New mothers shouldn't feel pressured to think "how do I fit back into my skinny jeans,"' and while I do of course agree that no mother should feel pressured into this, I would also argue that if a mother finds she feels more comfortable and confident after exercises surely that is ok too? In fact, I would go as far as to question, whether some women use motherhood as a great excuse to 'let themselves go'?
Must there really be a choice? Is it not possible to be a fit mum and still prioritise you child's needs?
Perhaps it's really about looking at the origin of the desire to get back in shape. I find exercise has not only great physical benefits but it also helped me regain a sense of self post-pregnancy. Motherhood can be challenging and taking a few hours in the week to hit the gym or go for a run allowed me the opportunity to focus on myself for just a few minutes. Yes, my physical appearance is important to me but isn't just about slimming down and toning up, it's about creating a mental lift and sustaining the healthy lifestyle I have always had.
Most importantly I hope to inspire my children to lead well-rounded healthy lives and how better to promote this then to lead by example.
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