Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I had a baby six months ago. Because of luck, general good health and diet/exercise, I gained a fairly small amount of weight during pregnancy and shed it pretty quickly afterward.
My friend “Mia” is 18 weeks pregnant with her first baby and has gained substantially more weight than I did, but looks great and apparently is in good health. Our families get together often, and her husband has taken to casually interviewing me about how I stayed in shape through pregnancy.
He is totally transparent — he only asks when Mia is in the room, presumably either to help motivate her or to outright shame her for gaining weight.
I don’t want to be complicit in this. What should I say to Mia’s husband, and do I say it in front of her or privately? I don’t just want him to stop asking ME for advice, I want him to stop shaming her altogether.
— Complicit in Mommy Shaming
O. M. G.
Women have a hard enough time with everyone’s opinion of their pregnancy — or their non-pregnancies, since even the ones who don’t get pregnant are fodder for public judgment — that the last thing they need is for any bystanders to scrutinize their choices.
Especially when choices are only part of it: Everyone’s body is different, responds differently, recovers differently.
So, to husband: “You want my advice? OK: Love Mia for who Mia is. Inside and out.”
And make sure Mia knows you have her back.
And no, he is not being totally transparent. “To help motivate her”? To do what, to resent him eternally? Totally transparent would be: “I’m annoyed that Mia looks fat when I moronically take you as evidence that she doesn’t have to.”
Not a piece of advice, but a slightly different perspective. When I was pregnant, I was spending a lot of time with Europeans. To a person, they complimented me on my weight gain — they all told me how wonderfully large and healthy I looked. The German guys especially.
I finally had to take a couple of them aside and explain gently that while I understood what they were saying and took it as a compliment, it was different in the U.S. and American women rarely like to hear about how large they are, even if it is accompanied by the word “healthy.” It’s better in general, under any circumstances, not to comment on people’s body size.
Under any circumstances. Yes, thank you.
Re: Mommy Shaming:
“What worked for me might not work for someone else. I’m sure Mia’s doctor will let her know if she needs to do anything differently.” This doesn’t slap Mr. Insensitive in the face quite as harshly as it’s otherwise tempting to do, and reminds him this is about health and not about beauty standards.
Re: Mommy Shaming:
What’s almost worse, to me, is that my friend’s husband has been noticing and is commenting on MY body.
Yes, ew. See, “under any circumstances,” above.
— Washington Post Writers Group