By Michelle Noehren,
Founder/Editor of CTWorkingMoms.com
In case you missed our recent media blitz, CTWorkingMoms.com's Goddess Gathering blog post went viral a few weeks ago. After being published on our website it was posted here on HuffPost and then was quickly picked up by The Daily Mail. Within 12 hours after they ran their article, we were contacted by major media networks and were interviewed by The TODAY Show and Good Morning America. We were also featured as the hot topic on The View. It was an absolute whirlwind, and now that I'm finally able to sit back and review everything that happened, I'm finding I have a lot on my mind.
It amazes me to know that the simple act of taking off our shirts and baring our post-baby bodies was so revolutionary that it gained world-wide attention. And it gained that attention rapidly and fiercely. What that says to me is that women across the globe struggle to feel good about their bodies -- and that this struggle is particularly difficult for mothers.
We can be incredibly hard on ourselves (I speak from vast personal experience), and too often compare ourselves to unrealistic ideals of beauty. Society has been telling us for a long time that to be beautiful we must be thin. Argue with me all you want about this, but I do place the majority of the blame on the media and big business.
Women didn't just sit around one day and come up with this crippling notion that if we aren't a size 0, 2 or 4, we're ugly and imperfect. We are sold this bill of goods everywhere we look, and it's not by accident. (It's hard to remain unaffected -- I myself struggle with body image issues.)
The way businesses advertise to pregnant women is one great example of this. How many ads do you see in pregnancy-related magazines for stretch mark prevention oils and lotions? Ever noticed ads claiming to help get your baby weight off fast and effectively? How about that postpartum belly wrap endorsed by Kourtney Kardashian (or the dozens of knock-offs) that are supposed to get your hips back into place after giving birth? It's almost like we're being told that post-baby bodies shouldn't show any signs of past pregnancies. Oh wait, that is exactly what we're being told.
Let's really think about this.
What if we embraced our stretch marks and weren't afraid of them? What if we gave ourselves some time to lose the weight we gained during pregnancy instead of feeling like we need to shed it immediately? What if we were happy that after giving birth, our hips spread out beautifully? What if we truly loved and appreciated all that our bodies did to help bring our children into the world?
I'm serious, what would happen?
First of all, big businesses wouldn't get to profit from making us feel bad about ourselves because we'd have no use for their "beauty" products. And maybe, just maybe, we would see more realistic-looking women in advertisements and magazines. But most of all, can you imagine how beautiful a world this would be? Can you imagine how much more time and energy we would each have if we just stopped pressuring ourselves to look a certain way?
I'm not saying it's as easy as flipping a switch and turning off the internal and external pressure we feel to be thin -- but we have to start trying.
We've created our very own "Goddess Gallery" to which we devoted an entire website because we feel it's that important. So far, despite all the media attention and thousands of website hits this new website has garnered, only six people have sent in their own Goddess photo. Six people.
I've had so many people tell me they just can't take off their shirts and show their post-baby belly and body.
We only post photos of a woman's entire body -- her face must be in the photo -- but I'm willing to bet that if we changed our rules and said we'd accept photos without people's faces we'd get a lot more submissions. We won't do that. To accept photos of just the belly would be playing into this sense of shame that moms have about their bodies.
The whole point is to feel better about ourselves as a whole, to embrace our bodies as they are, right now. It breaks my heart that there aren't more women excited and willing to add their photo to our gallery. I simply wish and hope that through our work, more of you will feel empowered, beautiful, worthwhile and valued -- no matter what the scale says.
My dream is that someday, this whole post will seem ridiculous. That it will be incredibly silly to consider taking off our shirts to be revolutionary. But to get there, we need to be open with each other about what our bodies really look like, because it's a powerful way to combat the media images we are presented with everywhere, all the time.
Maya Angelou once said: "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty." Moms are beautiful and our stretch marks, c-section scars and widened hips are all reminders of the amazing journey our bodies went through in bringing a human being into the world. Let's love ourselves.