Getting in shape post baby…bad example? Bad mum?

One of my guilty pleasures is reality TV and following celebrities (in the magazine/Instagram sense not in the weird stalker sense). It’s not something that I am overly proud of but nevertheless it is something I enjoy. For this reason I follow quite a few celebrities and reality television personalities on social media, particuarily fellow mums. Because I enjoyed the ITV series ‘Love Island so much I began following Cara Delahoyde who has recently had a baby son.

A few months ago, and fairly soon after she had given birth to her son Cara put up a photograph on Instagram of herself before she had a baby, looking fantastic in a swimsuit with her partner on holiday. The caption before the photo read “…looking forward to looking like this on hols…only 7 months to get back to this bod…” the comments on this image went crazy. Some people were really supportive and encouraging. Some people just expressed concern and were just giving pleasant advice about not rushing and doing things healthily etc. Then there were others tearing her down making nasty comments implying things like she should be putting her baby first. And that she is being a bad example by daring to voice that she is aiming to get back in shape. What shocked me was that most of these people making nasty comments were mums themselves. I recently also noticed that Gary Beadles partner Emma Jane is receiving similar comments about how slim she is looking so soon after having her first child. Again some are just kind and well meaning remarks, but others are just plain rude. As a mum who was keen to get back in shape myself after having my son I decided I wanted to write about my take on this subject.

The comments that shocked me the most were the ones that implyed or just outright stated that by thinking about getting back in shape after having a child you are not a good mother or that you aren’t making your baby a priority. I think this is ridiculous. You simply cannot judge a womans love and dedication to her child through her body shape or whether she bothers to workout or not, or whether, lord forbid she wants to get back to her former body shape. I started working out pretty soon after my child. I had been blessed with an ‘easy’ pregnancy and stayed fit and active throughout it and I recovered well from my birth. I didn’t rush things when it came to post partum exercise and I listened to my body and had no problems whatsever. NEVER did I make exercise a priority over my child. I worked out entirely at home and while he napped…newborn babies sleep a lot in the day there is more than enough time to get a half an hour workout in and still spend a huge amount of time snuggling with your baby and enjoying those first weeks with them. I would literally be in the same room as my child while I got my workout done and if he woke up then that was my workout over or paused. He always came first and he still does. I practise attachment parenting, which means I breastfeed, babywear and co-sleep. Because of this I have never, since my 15 month old was born, left him with anybody apart from his father for longer than an hour except once when I had an operation as a day patient in hospital. I have never had a night out and I have always put his needs first. I’m not for a second saying that this makes me a ‘perfect’ mother (as if such a woman even exists) or that my style of parenting is superior to any other, I’m just illustrating that it is perfectly possible to spend some time getting back in shape whilst still being fully dedicated to your baby and motherhood.

Even if a mother chooses to leave their child with somebody to go to the gym for an hour, there is absolutely no difference between doing this and spending time without your child getting your hair or nails done or having a bubble bath. It’s called self-care and it’s bloody important as a mum to make sure you treat yourself to some, in whatever form you prefer. Some people choose pampering others choose fitness. My self care of choice just happens to be a Kettlebell workout, the pampering takes a backseat for me! In my opinion looking after yourself helps your overall wellbeing and self esteem, and I believe that you have to look after yourself to be able to look after others well.

Another thing that I found a little strange was people implying that seven months is too short an amount of time to be aiming to get back in shape. How long it takes to lose ‘baby weight’ very much depends on various factors. Genetics play a huge part, then there’s your bodyshape and fitness levels before and during pregnancy. Whether you had a complicated pregnancy or birth is going to have a huge impact and if you had health complications this is likely going to mean a longer recovery, but if you had an easy pregnancy and birth then you are going to be healed and feeling ready to engage in physical activity far sooner.

There is the argument aswell that regular exercise is not just beneficial for physical health and fitness, but can also be amazing for mental health. Therefore engaging in physical activity after having a child could actually help with symptoms of depression. I’m not saying it’s a cure for all mental health conditions but for me personally I know how much I benefit from exercise in terms of my own anxiety particularly post partum.

I think that some people believe that celebrity mums posting photos of their bodies looking in great shape soon after having a baby makes them a ‘bad example’. I do agree that any weightloss that occurs needs to be done safely or it could be unhealthy, but at the same time being and staying overweight could be considered just as unhealthy and unless you know the facts about a persons lifestyle or how they lost weight you are in no position to judge them either way. I understand that some women feel enormous pressure to get back to their pre-baby bodies as soon as possible and maybe celebrities posting pictures of their success in the area adds to that, but I think it’s important to remember a few things. Firstly social media isn’t always honest, photos might be edited and posed, and nobodies life is as amazing as they make it look on their Instagram feed. Secondly the rich and famous are likely to have personal trainers and dietitians at their disposal to help get them back in tip top shape as soon as possible. They are also maybe going to have more time to spend on themselves. But equally it’s likely that they are under far more pressure to look amazing all the time. More so than the average new mum, seeing as they are photographed and critiqued on everything from their clothes to their body shape and weight pretty much continuously.

I just think that before we post any negative or scathing comments under anybodies social media posts (celebrities or not) or make judgements on their lifestyle/parenting skills based on what we see in a picture of them, we should just stop and really think about where it’s coming from. Is the comment coming from a place of concern or kindness or is it coming from a place of jealousy? Are we simply projecting our own insecurities.

The wonderful thing about getting fit and healthy is that practically anybody can do it. You just have to love yourself and want it enough to stop making excuses. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a personal trainer or fancy gym equipment, if you want it enough then you can do it at home with minimal or even no equipment. There’s plenty of free YouTube post partum workouts you can do and something as simple as walking is a great and gentle exercise to start with.

Equally there is no rush and there should be no pressure to ‘bounce back’ immediately after having a child. But know that if/when you are ready that there is no reason why you can’t get back to your pre-baby weight/bodyshape or even fitter if you really want to. I follow a lot of fit mums on social media with multiple children that look fantastic. The images they post looking super fit and toned don’t make me feel crap because my abs aren’t as good as theirs, I see them as role models. These women are showing us that we don’t have to remain in bodies that we aren’t happy about. And that having children doesn’t mean that we are destined to be left feeling awful about ourselves forever. Phrases like “your body is never the same after having a child” make us mums feel like because we have had children we are now less desirable and less attractive than other women. I call this bullshit! Not only can our bodies look any way that we want them to, with a bit of hard work, but they should be considered even more incredible because they grew and gave birth to children which is amazing.

So whatever method of self care we choose as a mum lets all stop dragging each other down. Motherhood is the most rewarding but at times the hardest job out there and we shouldn’t criticise each other for spending a bit of time on ourselves, whatever activity we decide to do in that time.

Jess xox

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