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The “Dad Bod.” By now, I’m sure you’ve heard this term.
If not, it’s attributed to college sophomore Mackenzie Pearson whose article “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod” went viral back in April, generating discussion everywhere from the Washington Post to NPR to Time.
For those of you who somehow escaped reading any of these articles, what exactly is the dad bod?
While Pearson describes it as “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out,” I prefer the Skimm’s humorous take on it. They point to it as “a Leo-inspired look that says ‘I was an athlete in high school, probably didn’t keep it up in college, and now here I am.’ Comes with pizza, beer, and criticism.”
Yep, this idea of the dad bod comes with criticism galore. Places like Time even called it a “sexist atrocity.” And perhaps it is. But I’m not here to dissect or attack the dad bod craze. Love it. Hate it. Think of it what you will.
Instead, like many others, this new and rather odd – if you ask me – craze, got me thinking about the mom bod.
While I won’t be offering you any parodies such as this one or any pictures of my mom bod interspersed throughout this article (as noble as doing that may seem to some, I’m trying to teach my four daughters that we don’t take pictures of ourselves in our underwear and post them on the internet), what I do hope is that as one mom to another I can offer you some truth.
Not just truth that you may need to hear, but truth I myself need to be reminded of too. You could say this is an instance of not just writing to you, but writing to myself also.
This truth starts not with what our culture or others tell us about our “new” bodies, but what we tell ourselves. Every time we look in the mirror. Every time we have to try on a bathing suit. Every time we see another mom whose “battle scars” don’t seem to be as bad as ours are. Who, frankly, doesn’t even look like they had kids … at all.
What is this truth we should be telling ourselves? We need to start whispering – and perhaps even screaming, if necessary – the truth Scripture offers us about these bodies of ours.
In Psalms 139:13-14, David wrote, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Take a moment to read that again, maybe even say it out loud: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
You may be tempted to think, like me, “Well, that was way back in the womb. Before the stretch marks. Before the post-baby bulge. Before the extra weight that doesn’t want to come off no matter what I try.”
Here’s the thing, though, when God fearfully and wonderfully created the female body, one of the purposes he gave it was to grow and nurture new life. Now, I realize this is a touchy topic because in our post-Eden world, sadly not all of our female bodies cooperate. I’ve had many friends who have longed to physically carry and give birth to babies, only to face struggle and heartbreak. But for those of us whose bodies have experienced pregnancy, birth, and now find themselves physically changed, we need to remember that when God fearfully and wonderfully created us in the womb, it included this ability to grow and nurture new life.
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I love what Jim Gaffigan says in his video Mr. Universe. In a serious moment, he notes, “Really, all women are amazing ... a woman can grow a baby inside their body. And then somehow a woman can deliver a baby through their body. And then, by some miracle, a woman can feed a baby with their body.”
I wonder though, what is it going to take for you and me to remember this? Our bodies are amazing. What is it going to take for us to learn to celebrate what we see in the mirror, rather than detest it?
For me, it takes a purposeful decision. The decision to make two declarations and remind myself of them daily. I encourage you to make them too. They are:
1. I will stop beating myself up.
Yes, I should strive to take care of myself by eating well and being physically active. And, the truth is, I could stand to lose a bit of the post-pregnancy weight I’m still carrying four years later. That said, there are certain changes that have happened to my body that exercise and good eating can’t fix.
When it comes to these changes, I need to train myself to view them as marks worthy of celebration. Yet, if I’m continually beating myself up over them, I never will. So today I will stop. Instead, I will choose to see them as reminders of the four lives of my imaginative, energetic, creative daughters. Daughters for whom I want to model a healthy love for my mom bod.
2. I will stop comparing myself to other moms.
Not all of our female bodies are the same. We have different shapes, different sizes, and different metabolisms. And when it comes to bouncing back from pregnancy, some body types seem to recover more quickly. I have friends who don’t look like they’ve had kids, while I clearly do.
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Now this doesn’t mean that I can use this as an excuse for lack of self-control. While sure, it’s harder for me to lose weight than it is for some of my friends, I should still put in the effort to make sure that I’m a healthy version of my shape and size. But, as I do work to be healthier, it’s important for me to remember that we don’t all reach the right “healthy” for our shape and size at the same speed.
So today I will stop comparing myself to the moms whose bodies have recovered faster than mine has. I will stop assuming that they are judging me and evaluating why I’m not as trim as they are. Instead, I will remember that we are meant to be on the same team, encouraging each other in our mothering journeys and the appreciation of our post-baby bodies.
I love what author and speaker Emily Wierenga writes in her blog post, “A Letter to Kate Middleton on the Postpartum Body,” because it’s not just for the Duchess of Cambridge. It’s for you and me too. Emily beautifully states:
Forget trying to get back to your pre-pregnancy physique because you have a new body now, one that has worn and born a child and one that will feed a child and never be the same, but the change is good. You have a new name now, and that name is mother, and it has a shape all its own.
So if men – and female college sophomores – can celebrate the dad bod, certainly we as women can learn to celebrate our mom bods. And let’s not wait for culture to declare it a trend. Rather, let’s start celebrating now. In our minds. In our hearts. In our homes. And in our spheres of influence.
Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she loves to combine the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com. You can also find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter at @ashslater.