Has the 'Perfect Mom Body' Changed Over Time?

We can all agree that the basic shape of the "ideal" female body has changed over time. Flat-chested and skinny flappers gave way to curvier ideals, and Marilyn Monroe with her voluptuous curves gave way to heroin chic, and now a gym toned muscular form that is half Marilyn and half Linda Hamilton circa Terminator. This was all summed up nicely in a Boston Globe article this week.

No one wants to look like Marilyn Monroe anymore, says Jean Fain, a psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Compassion Diet." And they haven’t for a long time. Standards have changed, and they’re always going to be changing because no one wants to look like the aging cultural ideal. They want to look like the young ones, and the young ones are slimmer and more muscled than Marilyn was.

But what about moms' bodies? Have our ideals changed over time, too?


I wasn't alive in the 1950s, '60s, or '70s, but it does seem to me that back then, women had a bit more physical leeway. They were not expected to look like Halle Berry 20 minutes after pushing their baby out. Yes, there were pressures then, too (remember girdles?), but it seems like now, the pressure to be "hot" is never ending and extends long past girlhood.

The "moms" who are celebrated look like Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie and Jenny McCarthy -- hard-bodied, large breasted, well-toned, and perfect, almost air brushed beyond their maternal "flaws."

I can't sit here and say I'm not guilty of it, and I won't lie and say my baby stretched tummy doesn't give me agita much of the time. I miss my old hard body a lot, but this idea that a body can be in "fashion" just seems wrong.

There is not all that much we can do to control our bodies. Sure, we can avoid being too far on either end of the weight spectrum, but a woman at a "healthy" weight for her height can span more than 20 pounds. And even then, there is no way to know where fat will congregate. I have seen women who weigh less than me wear a bigger size and women who weigh more wear a smaller one. All bodies are different.

In the flapper era, when flat was in, what is a woman with 34Ds supposed to do? Bind them? Some did, I realize, but enough is enough. Some moms are going to "bounce back," some are not. But we need to be able to make room for all kinds of bodies.

If we can't do it in pop culture, then we ought to at least try to do so in our own minds. You may never get the abs you envision, so set goals that make sense for you. Not all moms can look like Halle Berry and most of the people who do have surgery to get there.

Do you think there is an "in" body for moms?


Image via rockwilder/Flickr

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