- It’s not about the weight.
In the original “great palace lie” story, when the emperor’s trustworthy officials couldn’t see the cloth the swindlers were weaving (which wasn’t there), they pretended they could. Why? Because they didn’t want to look stupid or unqualified. Who wants to look stupid or unqualified? And yet motherhood, especially new motherhood, is filled with the experience of feeling unqualified. No one is prepared. That is one of the lies. Transitions are difficult, uncomfortable, and messy. That being a different weight will make you feel more competent/happy/qualified is a lie.
Magazines are filled with articles about “the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy,” “losing the baby weight,” “mommy tucks,” or skinny celebrities strolling down the red carpet weeks after giving birth. It’s another version of one of the Great Palace Lies. Kate Middleton was alternately shunned and celebrated for still having a baby bump after her first child was born and then shunned and celebrated for looking too stunning just after after her second baby was born. So the lie works both ways: you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The truth is weight is just that: weight. And regardless of your weight, your stomach will never be the same postpartum. Your breasts, whether or not you breastfeed, will never be the same. Your sleep will never be the same. Your relationships will never be the same. And, most importantly, YOU will not be the same. Whatever your weight is and becomes, you will never be the same person you were prior to having a baby. Putting all your energy into the lie that you can be (or at least look like) the same person, and that is the goal, will only succeed in making you tired, depressed, and trying to be something you’re not.
- You can be more comfortable in your own skin.
If you get rid of the scale, the real feelings will show up. This will probably feel uncomfortable, but freeing. Motherhood, becoming a mother, includes grief: grieving the old self and creating a new one. Anne Lamott says one of the greatest palace lies about grief is that it should be gotten over quickly and privately.
Allow grief, allow imperfection, give yourself more time than you would have expected, and allow your body to be what and where it is right now. Also, you do not have to do this motherhood-thing alone. Ask for help, join a moms group, get into therapy, do whatever you need to do to not be in isolation with believing the great palace lies. Be the truth teller: be the one who is willing to say, “I’m not feeling happy and glowing! I feel like sh*t! I want to go to the coffee shop without carrying a baby and a diaper bag full of butt cream, cheerios, pureed carrots, 3 changes of clothing, 2 pacifiers, wipes, bibs, burp cloths, sleep sheep, and SPF50 sunscreen!” Speaking the truth of your experience can give you more of the feeling of comfort in your own skin than losing weight ever could.
- You will not pass on the suffering to your child.
Scales are a way to measure value in an amount, but they don’t really measure what is valuable. When you die, I doubt “she weighed this amount” or “Wow, her stomach was surprisingly flat postpartum!” is what you want people to be saying about the meaning you brought to this world. What do you really value? Be that; do that. Many women are inspired, when they become mothers, to break the generational chains of suffering from their own family of origin and/or cultural experience. If you have suffered from self-hatred or disordered eating in your own experience, this is an opportunity to not pass it on. This is an inspiration to be different, learn to love and appreciate yourself now, flaws and all. Wear the bathing suit. Look kindly, as much as you can, in the mirror. Treat yourself at least as kindly as you treat your child. The way you treat yourself is your child’s mirror. Model that imperfection, eating cookies, and cellulite are normal parts of the human experience. Oh, and destroy the scale (more on this next).
- Scales are for fish.
I encourage you to smash your scale. Do it. Get out a hammer and bash away. Have a scale smashing party. Consider freeing all the energy that has been going toward measuring your worth externally to other endeavors. Letting go of your scale can free up so much energy! If you can’t throw out your scale, I encourage you to make it into a YAY scale. A YAY scale is a scale that reads an affirmation to you instead of a number. If you have a daughter, make her a YAY scale, or make one with her. If she is old enough, let her write her own affirmations. Illustrations also work. Though it may sound cheesy that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Isn’t reading “You are just right,” “You are a sexy goddess,” or “What you’re looking for is not in here” preferable to another “not good enough”?
(I’m Guest blogging for a San Francisco therapist’s site! Here is the beginning of the article, then click on the link below to continue reading)
Last weekend I went to the movies with my preschooler. It was a special theater adventure into which we snuck in a large purse full of popcorn. As the lights dimmed and the light-up crocks flashed, we heard lots of excited children exclaiming “It’s starting!!!” and some not-so-happy babies sharing in their preverbal-but-very-easily-interpreted sounds.
I have to say I think I enjoyed the movie much more than my child. The Psychologist part of me was impressed with the ways they imaged memory consolidation in the brain and characterized feelings. Here are a couple of things that stood out as ways to practice emotional understanding either as a parent to your inner child, your external child/ren, or both.
1. Externalizing and characterizing parts of the self makes them less scary
The other night I lost it with my preschooler after 9,003 (ok it cold have been 9,002) attempts to get teeth brushed before bed and yelled “BRUSH YOUR TEETH RIGHT NOW!” (I do not recommend this). After taking a deep breath, I was able to soften my own guilt for yelling and make it less scary/ more able to be released for my child by stating,
We then talked about “the angry flame-guy” and how sometimes t is helpful to shoot out flames (like when you are trying to get the window open for your friends joy and sadness) and sometimes it is not helpful to shoot out flames (like when you are trying to get your child to brush their teeth) but it’s just the angry flame-guy, and we all have an angry flame-guy part of our self. We also all have a sad, crumpled-on-the-floor-have-to-drag-me-around part, a green, disdainful-condescending-mean-girl part, a pixie fly-around-in-joy-reframing-everything-as-a-growth-opportunity part, etc. They are just parts of the self, not ALL of the self. When we remember that, we can stay an integrated whole Self. And when we forget, that, we become dis-integrated, overwhelmed self.