by Dr. Laurel Schwartz
The Momshell: What’s a Post-Pregnancy Woman to Do?
Apparently there is new pressure women face, when it comes to their appearance and it has a name - “momshell,” (mother-as-bombshell). Being a momshell entails being sexually alluring and hyper-fit soon after giving birth. The consequences of failing at quickly getting into shape after having a baby, seem to be quiet condemnations and public put-downs by other women.
I can talk about how this is yet one more venue for women to objectify themselves. Indeed, research on girls suggest that they begin to objectify themselves, as early as the age of 11. Our daughters are in fact, so concerned about how they look to others, especially boys, that they have no psychic space left with which to dream about their future. While boys are thinking about developing themselves as scientists, athletes and accountants girls are thinking about how they look in skinny jeans. I can talk about all the other obvious and not so obvious consequences of the relentless pressure on girls/women to look a certain way and to be sexual. I find myself, however, preoccupied with one thought when it comes to momshells. What about the baby?
In the zeal of getting off that baby weight and having abs of steal, what has happened to the needs of the infant? What about the real needs of the mother who has just given birth? These concerns are institutionalized in many cultures. For example, in traditional Hispanic culture there is the “cuarentena.” For the first 40 days after giving birth the women family members help the new mother. During this period the new mother rests — healing and recovering. She learns to breastfeed and she bonds with her infant. The mother bonding with her newborn is essential to the newborn’s feelings of wellbeing and its capacity to thrive.
Unfortunately, our culture, as the momshell demonstrates, has a preoccupation with the needs of the self, which has resulted in a letting go of bonds and relationships. As the psychologist, Martin Seligman said all the way back in 1988, “…the self is a very poor site for finding meaning.” A momshell may have immediately recouped or figure, post-pregnancy, but at what price?
Dr. Schwartz is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Stamford.
"The Human Condition" is a weekly blog posted by Dr. Schwartz that discusses psychology — thoughts, feelings, and behavior — in everyday life.