Shannon Robb
October 23, 2013 5:00 pm

Let’s talk about Maria Kang, shall we?

Fit-Mom, as she’s otherwise known as, surfaced last week after she posted a controversial picture of herself in a sports bra and work out shorts, surrounded by her three sons, all under the age of 5, with the caption ‘What’s your excuse?’. Needless to say, mothers all around the country responded in anger.

I’m here to present an alternative opinion to that anger. Katie Patton, a fellow HG Contributor spoke about this already, and I’m not going to discredit her article in the slightest. In fact, I encourage you all to read it, and contribute to the dialogue brewing.

First, I’d like to go on the record and state that I am not a mother. Not yet. But, I am a young woman in America. Actually, I am an over-weight woman in America. I will never deny that. I’d also like to go on the record and state that I value exercise and feeling good about myself. I exercise to tone my body, to de-stress, and to lose weight, of course. Am I obsessed with becoming a size 2? No. Am I interested in making my body look as good as it can while maintaining a healthy muscle tone and not overdoing it? Yes I am.

Ms. Kang has already issued an apology on her page. However, she’s received more flak because it was not seen as a heartfelt apology. I would argue, though, that Ms. Kang does not have to apologize for other how women perceived her picture.  She states “What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours. The first steps in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. Your created them.”

I have to wholeheartedly agree with her statement. We create our own, we interpret our own thoughts, we can control very few things in our life. We control how we feel, no one can make us feel anything. How we react to something is completely inherent in ourselves. We are so quick to place blame on others for how we feel instead of looking inside ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton (A TON) of pressure on women in society to lose weight after babies. Actually, there’s a ton of pressure on women to lose weight period. It’s a little bit ridiculous if you ask me. We see pictures of celebrities back to their awesome pre-baby bodies in very, very short amounts of time. Many of whom have access to personal trainers, nannies, chefs, and perhaps a partner who also has a flexible schedule.

That’s not the norm in America.

I have worked for many women in my short career. In fact, most of my bosses have been female. Each one of them has embraced a different ideal of womanhood post-baby.

A high level boss at a very large institution had just come back from extended maternity leave after having her second child when I started there. She chose to bike to work on days weather permitted. I asked her about it once because she didn’t live too close to the office. She told me she liked biking to work because she preferred taking the same amount of time it took to bike to the office, doing something for herself, over sitting in rush hour traffic stressing and, well, sitting. She also informed me that at the end of the day, it helped her de-stress from her quite stressful job, so she could go home and focus on her family. It was something she had the opportunity to do for herself. And, yes, I am very aware that she was lucky enough to have the capability to bike every day. Perhaps her situation has changed since I worked for her, but I found her focus and drive to take time for herself admirable, because she knew it made her a better mom.

However, I have also worked for a handful of women who feel the opposite. These women have told me time and again (seriously, many times) how becoming a mother changes you. It shifts your focus, you see things differently, certain things don’t matter anymore.  One even used to say after she became a mother she didn’t ever care what she looked like, and even threw away a lot of her make-up.

These are very polar opposite viewpoints. I cannot argue which is better than the other. Is biking to and from work really necessary? Does it take too much time for yourself over your family? Does throwing out your make-up really make you a better mom? A better partner? Shouldn’t we value ourselves enough to still want to look good for friends, for our partners, for ourselves?

I know that not every working woman has time to work out, or to prioritize her work out over her kids. Especially those with young children. I have many older cousins and friends who have kids AND work long, long hours. Not everyone has the chance to exercise everyday. And, I completely understand that when these working moms do get a half an hour or hour to themselves, sometimes the last thing they want to do is work out (I will also state, that I can in no way comprehend the exhaustion that comes from parenthood). I know women who have struggled to get back into shape after kids. Most women do. If they want to prioritize looking better for themselves, for their partners, for whatever reason, we should support them. If working out isn’t a priority, that’s fine, too! Do you, everybody. Do. You.

What I am saying is, though, that perhaps we should be changing the dialogue over the whole brew-ha-ha. Instead of accusing Maria Kang of bullying or fat-shaming, and in doing so, bullying her, maybe we should focus on realizing that all women are different. I do not believe it was her intention to shame anyone. Ms. Kang was providing women with a motivational tool. In her mind, and in the minds of many women out there, a picture like that IS motivational. It’s drive and focus to stop making excuses if you really want to prioritize your fitness. Hell, I even find that picture motivational and I’m not anywhere near having kids! If she can look that great after three, then I want to look half as good with none!

Women all over America, and the world, have all different body types. They have all different hormones, and they have all different reactions and rebounds after babies.  We need to be discussing this more, instead of blaming someone for presenting an opinion. Could Ms. Kang have presented her message in a different light? Probably. However, I think it would be different if it was presented as a statement, instead of a question. She has two jobs. She doesn’t have a nanny. She has three kids. She’s asking us what is our excuse, as women.

I cannot comprehend the struggle of being a working mom who wants to be able to work out and doesn’t have time. Or any mom who feels like her body isn’t her body after her kids. Or who is just too damn tired to do anything. But, I can comprehend not being happy with my body, wanting to do more, feeling limited, and stressing about how little time I have devoted to the gym that week.

I know my excuse is that I’m lazy sometimes. I’m working on it. I’m always working on it. I’m aware of it, and it doesn’t make me angry when others present that excuse to me.

What I’m more concerned about, as a whole, is why we are so concerned with cutting other women down in our society? No matter what any woman does, the first group to complain and comment is other women. I’m kind of sick of it, ladies! We should be supporting each other and opening up new dialogue, because by cutting each other down, it makes it easier for men to cut us down. By not respecting one another, we make it easier for men to disrespect us (remember what Tina Fey said in Mean Girls)!

Saying someone isn’t a “REAL mom” because she is fit isn’t helping anyone. In fact, it’s gross. We don’t have any idea what her home life is. Some women and families have different levels of support from their extended families and neighbors. Some don’t. That doesn’t make them any more or less of a real mom. Motherhood, parenthood, has nothing to do with how we look.

I can only hope that by the time I’m ready to have kids, if and when that happens, we will all be more supportive of each other.

Bottom line: all this shaming and bullying has to stop. Slut-shaming, fat-shaming, smart-shaming. It all has to go away. We’re not making it any easier on ourselves.

Featured Image: Newsday, Mean Girls Image: Tumblr.

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