The Skinny Mom: Does She Think She’s Better Than You?

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on August 6, 2013

“When my daughter was about a week old I was at the grocery store and a woman asked how old my baby was, I told her one week with a smile. Her response was “well you don’t look like you f***ing had a baby a week ago.” and turned and walked away from me. It hurts to be ostracized by other mothers in that way.” – Jonelle, of Aware Beginnings Doula Services, commenting on Mothering the Mother Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

I’m a skinny mom. Not too skinny. But on the slender side.

I gained about 25 lbs in each of my two pregnancies and shed it within a few weeks of giving birth.

When I’m pregnant, people tell me I don’t look it.

I fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans until seven months in.

I wore a short black dress to a party a few days before our second was born.

party

My K’taan is a size small, I can still squeeze into the back seat between my two babies’ carseats, and I still have no stretch marks.

Do you hate me yet?

What if I told you that I don’t diet and my only exercise is babywearing? Would you hate me then?

My body looks the way it does for a number of reasons (including socio-economic status and access to real food) but mostly because of a genetic lottery. In the eyes of our society, it’s a lottery I’ve won. But ‘winning’ isn’t everything. I have a history of starving, purging, cutting, and risking my body. This history is invisible when you look at me. It can be covered up by a short black dress and gold high heels.

Maybe you assume that I have my shit together, that I am in control; maybe you think I’m happy.
Maybe you assume that I am superficial.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly even when I’m pregnant and therefore do not have my baby’s best interest at heart.
Maybe you assume that I’m mean and manipulative.
Maybe you just know that I think I’m better than you. (I don’t. And I don’t think the skinnier mom standing next to me is better than me, either.)

Other people’s ugly assumptions aside, I know and enjoy the advantages of being a skinny mom:

I still get to be seen as cute and slightly sexy (even though I’m a mom, which is, apparently, the least sexy thing in the world).
I don’t have to buy a new wardrobe when I get pregnant.
When I look at pictures of mothers in magazines and advertisements, they look like me (I also happen to be caucasian and able-bodied. Bonus!).
I wasn’t automatically classed as a ‘high risk’ pregnancy due to my weight.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty.
I receive most of the advantages of being a skinny girl – I get served first at deli counters, customs officers are always nice to me, my in-laws think me an appropriate match – but since I’m a mom, these days I get a lot less harassment from skeezy men.

These are important social advantages. It will be hard for me to lose them as I get older. But they’re all from the outside. Inside is a different landscape.

Some nights I tell my husband I don’t want to have sex because I’m tired and covered in milk and I imagine my body has been taken over by a hungry parasite who just also happens to be a baby I love. It feels there is no more space in my body for receiving or giving anything.
If I do compare myself to the mothers in an advertisement, they are still thinner than me, happier than me, prettier than me, less milk-stained than me. I am still lacking.
I wasn’t classified as ‘high-risk’, but I had to pay three months’ rent for out-of-pocket for decent healthcare during my last pregnancy. It was hard to convince myself that my baby and I were worth it.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty, but I didn’t (I still satisfied them – I just felt guilty).
I don’t do it anymore, but I have thrown up or skipped more meals than I can count. Other people liking your body doesn’t make you love your body.
I’m a happy person but I still feel out of control sometimes – especially when my toddler is eating spaghetti with a spoon.
I love breastfeeding now, but when I first lactated colostrum, I felt disgusted by my pregnant body.
The flip side of being told I don’t look pregnant is people thinking that I am not my baby’s mom. “Is this your baby?” they ask, and I try to take it as a compliment but I know there’s an edge in my voice when I answer, “Yes, this is my baby. This is my baby.” This is my body that birthed this baby and I hate that you looked at it and thought otherwise.

My body is real and I am learning to love my postpartum pooch (below: a few days PP in ye olde disposable panties).

Postpartum

My claim is not that, “I too, my full-bodied sisters, am a daily victim of unfair physical ideals!” I know that, on the whole, I benefit from them. And I’m not saying that BWF should have a ‘skinny moms’ day for every plus-sized mama day. I know that every day is ‘skinny mom day’ in all the rest of social media. I’m just saying that in a country where at least 80% of women dislike their bodies and Miss America is perpetually malnourished, we are all capable of hating ourselves. You don’t know how someone feels about their body just by looking at them. You only know how you feel about their body. And your own.

In my better days, this is how I like to think of my body: as a powerful vessel. A vessel for my thoughts and actions; a vessel for my creativity; and of course, a vessel for my babies. It is through this body that I show my love for other people. This body lets me laugh. This vessel has (love) handles but it is tall and deep. It will get old and its enamel will crack. Someday it will disintegrate entirely. I can only hope that when it does, I’m not worried about how it looks.

So, do you hate me yet?

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey August 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Oh how I love this blog post. Beautifully said and well written. Skinny doesn’t mean you love your body and it shouldn’t automatically draw criticism! Thank you so much for having this post.

As a mama who has been bullied for being slender, I am so happy to see this!

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Geneva August 10, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Ok, I don’t relate to you one bit, post partum, having struggled immensely with holding on to weight, and struggling with a bad sweet tooth, and having had three babies in three years (youngest is 6months. However, before I had babies, I would have also been classified as ‘hot’ by the world. I’ve never been super skinny, but I was very athletic and fit and had all of the advantages that you spoke of above. It’s not with smugness that you’re relaying these facts – it’s just the truth. The truth should not offend people, though it often does. It sucks to be approaching 30 and realizing I don’t turn as many heads now as I used to, but my priorities have changes, and my husband adores my body.
So, even though I’m not thin and fit right now, I still remember what that felt like and how, despite fitting more into the good looking category the world placed me in, I still had body issues, my own struggles, my own demons. Just like you. My struggles now are a bit different than before because I recognize these changes have given me new demons while removing old ones, but I do not hate you because you’ve won the genetic lottery with your looks! I’m slightly envious, sure, but that is easily differentiated in an ordered mind from anger or hatred. And I know that being skinny wouldn’t solve all my problems or make me happy, though being more in control of myself would help…
I’m really glad you wrote this because there are a lot of moms in your position. And sometimes it’s hard for us ‘other moms’ to show you quite as much charity and honor for what your body has been through. I am sorry for that. I am sorry that we have not yet learned to love our neighbors in a true, non-sentimental, non-disordered sense.
I wish you, and all you skinny moms, joy and peace and good luck with your demons, whatever they may be. May God protect you and watch over you!

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Jayme @ Keeping Up With Myself August 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Coming from the other end of the spectrum (i.e. NOT skinny) I found this article very interesting.

I do not hate you. Envy, maybe, but not hate. I have never ever been skinny. And despite the insight into your self-harm struggles earlier in your life, I still found myself wishing I could have a body similar to yours at whatever the cost. How sick is my perspective on image that I would rather have a history of hurting myself and be slender that be only 30 pounds overweight as I have almost always been. I imagine many, if not most, women feel similarly when comparing their bodies to ideal images.

Thank you for writing this. It’s given me a lot to reflect on.

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Casey August 10, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I can relate. I have always been rail thin. I wanted to be curvy as an adolescent. Everyone else was getting boobs at 12 and I finally got my A cups in at about 19. I thought a guy would marry me, but not be sexually attracted to my body, and that my tiny breasts could only be something to be ashamed of. I ate junk food constantly, trying to gain weight, and was always sick. I hated my body until the day someone asked me to consider being a nude model for the Art Department at my college. I thought, well, I can’t do that and hate my body, so maybe it’s time to start working this stuff out. So I did, and it worked! I’ve been okay with my body since then, and by okay I mean I don’t really think about it in a judgy/comparing kind of way. Spend way more time working out more important issues I need for personal growth. Even though I get hurtful comments and still see full-figured women as more of a woman than me. I can only breastfeed for so many months, putting an incredible amount of time and energy into preparing massive amounts of healthy foods, before I end up looking bony and sick and malnourished. My babies try to fall asleep on my shoulder while I hold them, but they have never been able to find a comfortable spot for their head. I have had children seriously bang their head on my hip bone from trying to run up to me to hug me. Not trying to make you feel sorry for me. But now, I have droopy nipples, but a husband who thinks all body types are beautiful and interesting. saggy, wrinkly skin hanging off my stomach, and a toddler who thinks it’s fun to play with it.

Ultimately, we all know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

and, I desperately want to see all body types represented equally in the media.

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Becky August 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I am not a skinny mom and.have never been a thin woman, I’m not overweight I’m just me but I always struggle with body image and wishing to be smaller, fantasizing about how much easier and more wonderful life would be if only i was 20pounds lighter(after baby 50!), but reading about your struggles, especially about people asking “is that your baby”, I dont know if I would trade my struggles for yours. Thanks for helping me appreciate what I do have and giving me some perspective:)

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Sarah August 11, 2013 at 12:12 am

I am 27 weeks pregnant with my first, and have always been very thin as well, due to genetics. So far I have only grown a little belly & no other body changes (yet!) I get lots of comments (usually “jokingly”) about how my A cup breasts couldn’t possibly be able to breast feed my child. That’s hurtful too – their assumption that my body can’t possibly function correctly. All women, especially pregnant ones need support & encouragement

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Amber August 11, 2013 at 12:53 am

I can relate to this. I only gained 30lbs for both of my pregnancies. Around 6 months I posted a picture of my belly and out of 10 comments only received one positive one. The rest were “where is the rest of you?” etc. It kind of felt like others (which most being family members, sadly) thought/felt as if I was “smaller” during pregnancy on purpose. I have family members practically wishing that I would gain a lot of weight and have trouble getting it off. I’ve lost all my weight from my second pregnancy and my daughter is 2 months. I can’t say that I totally love my body. I have stretch marks. My weight had re-distributed in different places, I’m a different shape. I certainly don’t think I’m better than any other person because of it. It’s so easy for us to judge others based on how they look. Thank you for writing this.

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ruth August 11, 2013 at 12:55 am

Do you want to be hated yet?
Why assume you will be?
In what ways does your self-reflection contribute to raising awareness for those ‘other’ women who cannot claim your priveledge?
What, precisely, is the point to your claims? You reinforce the dominant position, without contributing to any social justice goals.

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Michaela August 11, 2013 at 1:30 am

I LOVE you for this! Thank you.

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Skylark August 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

I appreciate this post! I am a skinny Mom. In fact, so much so that I am exhausted anemic and constantly trying to eat enough and take enough vitamins to keep up with my breastfeeding son. People constantly comment on my body which makes me feel very sad and often very judged. If they only knew how worried I feel about my weight loss, hair falling out and how much I have to work to keep healthy just like them……It’s not about weight it’s about health and well being and feeling strong. I wish every other Mom out there those things :health, well being, and to feel strong.

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Morgan August 11, 2013 at 5:23 am

I have always been petite. Thin and short. The most offensive assumption people would throw at my while I was pregnant is that I would probably have a hard birth because I don’t have “child bearing hips”. Well, I had an easy, sweet, 6 hour home birth with my first. My pelvis opening is on the larger side, thank you very much.
It’s the short women who very often get the “Are you sure it’s not twins” comment. I got that one and also dieting advice (seriously) even through I actually had trouble gaining weight. Probably because my tummy had no where to grow but out. I also didn’t get stretch marks, but that has more to do with genetics I’ve heard than body size.

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Allison Taylor August 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

I think a relevant question would be The Skinny Mom: Do I think she is better than me?

I did not fair so well in the genetic lottery. Combine that with some food issues and years of undiagnosedq

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Tammy August 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I get what this article was trying to say but it really rubbed me the wrong way. Do you really think you get served first at the deli counter bc you’re thin? Or that just bc you’re overweight you’re classified as high risk? FYI I was and was never considered high risk. My doctor never mentioned my weight and I had a completely normal delivery and pregnancy. It seems pretty incredible for a skinny mom to just assume an overweight mom hates on a skinny mom or vice versa. Everyone can be insecure at times but this article didn’t come off like it should have.

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Esy August 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

I do think that an article from a skinny mom’s point of view is very beneficial, especially touching is the way you wrote about others thinking it cannot be your baby, and another mom above writing about the comments about breasts being too small. These are very hurtful and inconsiderate and nobody should go through this.

However, the perceived benefits of being skinny like the deli counter and your in-laws thinking you are a good match, and people being nice to you – these really reinforce stereotypes. Most people are not nicer to someone just because they are skinny. Looks do matter, but it is not as black-and white as this and I had no idea that some skinny people think this way.
Another reinforced stereotype is assuming that overweight women hate skinny women. Most people are not that shallow.

Many skinny moms are really unhappy about being skinny, and try to put weight on and cannot. So I think that you should refocus: the reason people should not “hate you” and other skinny moms is not only the possible struggle with eating disorders, but that people should not judge others based on their looks at all, whether underweight or overweight, and for whatever reasons they look that way.

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Samantha March 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Even though some people were critical of this post, I’m glad it was shared, and I understand what the author is saying. There are many social advantages to being thin, but there are also quite a few things that really suck when you’re a skinny mom–especially of an infant! I can relate in nearly every way.

Of course, there are some things I would have stated differently, but the message of the article is clear; we struggle with our bodies, too, and making us feel bad about ourselves doesn’t solve anything. Nobody knows individual struggles. Yep, I lost my postpartum weight right away, but every day is a struggle to provide enough milk for my baby while keeping myself healthy.

Thank you for sharing this! Sometimes I feel like my struggles to provide for my child (or look like I’m old enough for my child to be mine) are overseen, and people can be insensitive.

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Chelisse March 6, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I enjoyed this post a whole lot and found that I could relate to bits and pieces. I did gain a ton of weight during pregnancy 50 lbs to be exact but considering that pre-pregnancy I was a 100 lbs, that extra 50 lbs looked gigantic on me. Anyway I dropped back down to 102 lbs around the twelve week mark. However, Its not like my body didn’t change permanently. My hips are wider, I have a ton of stretch marks, I don’t know where the heck my butt went and I have difficulty keeping weight on. Maybe it is envy that tends to drive other people to give dirty looks or comments post partum but it sucks just the same. I actually love my body so much more now post pregnancy. Anyway thank you for this post again, its just getting the fact across that skinny moms also face discrimination from time to time.

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