Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
A lot of women are getting worked up over some anti-pregnancy comments fitness guru Jillian Michaels made in a recent interview with Women’s Health.
“I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body,” Michaels told the new issue of Women’s Health magazine. “Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”
This is not surprising, of course. Ms. Michaels suffered obesity as a child, and today she makes her living selling herself as a fitness expert. I’m not going to tell her she should throw away her money-making fit image in order to embrace motherhood. And neither can I join all of those who are denouncing her comments for the harmful message they send to young women about body image:
“She is teaching people about body image and self-esteem. Women who have children all the time and get right back in shape particularly if they exercise,” Dr. Leslie Seppinni, a Los Angeles-based Family Therapist & Clinical Psychologist tells Fox News. “If this is how she truly feels, she should seek counsel before coaching others on issues of body image.”
Ummm ... can I just say something here? This idea that “women get right back in shape, particularly if they exercise” is not exactly accurate. Really, people. Talk about setting women up for body image issues. With her comments, Dr. Seppinni is doing just that—in the name of protecting women from false assumptions.
Michaels is absolutely right in her assumption that pregnancy costs your body something. Of course it does. Physical consequences from pregnancy might be different for every woman, and the changes might not always be dramatic, but big and small things about the female body absolutely do change with pregnancy—forever. Why would anyone try to deny that?
Michaels is not wrong because she recognizes that pregnancy takes a physical toll on a woman’s body. She’s wrong because she thinks that motherhood is something you do for yourself. She thinks it’s about “rescuing something” to rescue a part of yourself.
If you think of parenthood as something you do for yourself, it will of course seem nonsensical to become a parent in a way that might cost you something.
What’s missing in Michaels’ opinion, and the opinions of those who are outraged by her comments, is recognition of the fact that marriage and motherhood (Yes, these two go together) are a God-given privilege and a calling. Like all callings, motherhood involves participation in the cross.
Whether it’s adoptive or biological, motherhood comes with many joys, but it hurts too. It costs us. In big ways and in small ways that are different for every woman.
It’s not about us. It’s about something much bigger than that. Without a Christian understanding of our participation in something greater than ourselves and the redemptive value of suffering, it’s awfully hard to make sense of it all.