One of the greatest feelings in the world is pulling on a pair of pre-pregnancy jeans and being able to zip them up without the help of any power tools. (Of course, this is second to pulling on a pair of nice and stretchy yoga leggings, but who's counting, right?) If you're a feminist, though, you will probably wonder if you can still be a feminist and care about getting fit after the baby comes. And the simplest answer is that yes, you definitely can, even if a lot of people might think otherwise.
It turns out, that awesome feeling of pulling on your pre-baby jeans isn't necessarily about feeling like, "Oh thank god, my body is finally not ruined and awful again." It's more like it's symbolic that having a child has not, in fact, meant the irrevocable removal of everything you once knew to be true and good about your life. Like, if you can reclaim those jeans, it's weirdly a sign that your baby is merely an addition to your life, not the bulldozer that demolished it. Between pregnancy, birth, and maybe breastfeeding, you spend a not-small amount of time offering up your body to the service of creating a new life. There is something so rewarding about feeling like you have control over your body again.
Really, the two — wanting to work on your body after having a baby and being a feminist — shouldn't even have anything to do with each other. Being a feminist, strong with values and ideals, is awesome. Deciding to be healthy and get your body to a place where it feels its strongest and best after having a baby? Also awesome. There is nothing in the feminism handbook that says you're not allowed to care about how you feel or even how you look. Mostly because there is no handbook, but a basic understanding of feminism should tell you that getting fit after having a baby doesn't make you a bad feminist.
The fact is, feminism is about empowering ourselves to make our own choices and live our best lives, and for most of us, "getting fit" really just means "working hard to bring my body to a place in which I feel healthy, strong, and like I'm functioning at my best." It's about loving your body — not hating it. And what's not feminist about that? Here are a few other very legit reasons why getting fit after a baby does not make you a bad feminist.
1. The Two Aren't Even Really Connected
It's honestly offensive and narrow-minded to assume that someone who is trying to get in better shape is doing so in an attempt to force their body (by presumably unhealthy means) to conform to sexist beauty ideals. I mean, no. Maybe we just want our bodies to be their best. Doing something for your body and having feminist ideals are two totally different things, and really have nothing to do with the other as long as your ideas at the core of each of them is to better yourself. And speaking of core, um, we have some muscles that need to get whipped back into shape and that's not about looking conventionally hot in a bikini so much as it's about having enough core strength to wear our shockingly heavy baby around the farmer's market for two hours on Sunday.
2. There's Nothing Wrong With Wanting A Little Balance After Pregnancy
When I had my son, I only gained 20 pounds or so, but honestly, getting back in shape after having a kid isn't just about losing weight; sometimes it's not about that at all. Pregnancy sends your body to some pretty extreme places, which makes it completely understandable to want to regain some sense of physical equilibrium once you've gotten through it. All I wanted to be, as I sent out to lose that extra weight, wasn't to hastily try and fit myself into a narrow concept of ideal beauty — it was to just get my body to a normal, healthy state again.
3. It Sets A Good Example For Your Kids
My 2.5-year-old recently tried to pick up my new 10-pound kettle bell, realized that he couldn't, and instead proceeded to do squats around the living room, much like the ones he sees me do daily. No matter what your motivations are for getting in shape after having a baby, making taking care of your body a regular part of your life is something that sets a fabulous example for your kids.
4. It Gives You The Chance To Feel Like Yourself Again
You just spent 9+ months sharing your body with another human being. Now that you get to have free reign over your body again, it's perfectly fine to choose working out over stocking up on wine. And then, you know, go get that wine afterward. The point is, after pregnancy, it feels great to just be back in sole control of your body — no matter what you choose to do with that autonomy, it's empowering and positive.
5. We All Care About How We Look, At Least A Little
Come on, we'd all be lying if we said we didn't care to at least some degree about our physical appearances, so let's just check our high heads at the door. Being a feminist doesn't change this at all. In fact, while we might aggressively fight against the implementation of beauty standards that shame certain types of bodies, it's wholly offensive and overly simplistic to believe that means that you can't be a feminist and always want to look good (it's just that "looking good" might mean totally different things to different people, and that's awesome).
6. You're Working On Your Body For Yourself And No One Else
As long as you're trying to get fit post-baby for yourself, and for your own health, and not merely to attract partners or to get your partner interested in you or to conform to society's idea of a "good body," then you're doing it for all of the right reasons.
7. Confidence Does Nothing But Support Feminism
For most women, their bodies feeling and looking their strongest means gaining a super important sense of confidence. There's a weird assumption that all women want to be "confident" so we can...attract men? I don't know, but that's definitely not what makes most new moms hit the gym. Like, we have new babies; even if we're single, dating isn't really at the forefront of our to-do lists. Confidence helps with everything, and when you feel awesome about your relationships with your body, everything about your life is better: your sex life, your professional life, your mom life, and your patriarchy-crushing life.
8. Self-Care Is A Fundamental Part Of Being A Feminist
Make no mistake: When a feminist decides to "get fit," we're mostly saying "I'm going to do something that makes me feel awesome and powerful and healthy." You're choosing to do something for your body which, in turn, does wonders for your mind and emotional health. What you aren't doing is suddenly trading your feminist beliefs for a treadmill.
9. It Feels Good To Workout
And who's to say that new moms aren't working out for the profound mood boost and anxiety/stress/depression fighting powers of exercise? Because most of us are, at least as much as we're looking to shake off whatever pregnancy poundage might be keeping us from feeling like our strongest selves. And feminism is at least partially about feeling empowered and good about yourself, right?
10. Getting Fit Does Not Equal Going On Starvation Diets
Why do people assume that someone saying, "Yeah, I'm excited to work out after I have this baby," automatically means, "Whew, I'm glad I'm about to get this thing out of me so I can immediately dive into crash diets and insane workout routines so that my body can become an acceptable sex object in the eyes of the Male Gaze again!" Like, that's not what we're saying. Of course, there are unhealthy and downright scary ways that you could go about getting fit after having a baby, but if you go about it in a reasonable, sane way, then it doesn't have to be anything like that.
11. You Aren't Hurting Anyone
By wanting to get fit after having a baby, you aren't hurting anyone. In fact, you're doing the opposite of that to your own body. So if people are judgmental about your motives or what your relationship with your body says about your feminist identity, that's really on them. You're probably too busy being squarely in control of your body and your life to notice anyway.