Feb. 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM ET
Mothers have a love-hate relationship with our bodies. And sadly, it’s usually more hate than love.
“I hate my body after four kids and four C-sections,” Liz Capra Whitby told TODAY Moms. “No time or energy to do anything about it, and I'm so sick of people saying ‘make time’ or ‘prioritize.' That's just not reality. I love my kids, hate my body.”
Many women share her feelings. A TODAY Moms survey of more than 3,000 people found that 31 percent of moms hate their bodies.
Almost two-thirds of women say they worry their partner doesn’t like their body, according to our online, unscientific poll. Two-thirds of moms also say images of Hollywood moms looking super-fit after having a baby make them feel worse about themselves.
“We live in a culture of judgment, and a culture that really expects women to be perfect and have perfect bodies no matter what else you have going on in your life,” says Michelle Noehren, creator of the CT Working Moms blog and the mom of a toddler who bared her not-so-perfect tummy in a moms’ photoshoot that went viral last year. As the heaviest member of the group, she got grateful responses from many women – but she also bore the brunt of nasty criticism.
Some days, she’s her own worst critic.
“I think to myself, 'I still can’t fit into any of the clothes that I had before pregnancy',” she said. “Sometimes I just wish I could put those pants on and wear them to work and feel comfortable again. My husband tells me I’m beautiful all the time, but sometimes I worry that I’m not as attractive to him as I used to be.”
When she’s feeling down on her body, Noehren said she reminds herself of her successes in life, how hard she’s worked, and how she treats people with kindness. “I remind myself that’s all more important than my physical appearance,” she said. “Also I look at my daughter and think I don’t want to give her these kinds of hang-ups about her body.”
When it comes to specific areas, moms are most like to be hung up about their stomachs: 58 percent said that’s their least favorite body part. (Yeah, growing a human inside you will do that.)
And we’d go pretty far to get a better body, at least in our daydreams. Asked whether they’d rather have perfectly behaved kids for a month or the perfect body for a month, moms were split, with half choosing a model booty over model babies.
Two-thirds of moms said they would rather lose five pounds than get a super-romantic gift from their partner this Valentine’s Day. (Note to the men in our lives: This does NOT mean you should get us a gym membership for Valentine’s Day.)
The survey did point out some bright spots in the “body image after baby” battle. Nearly a third of moms said having children made them feel better about their bodies – more confident and powerful.
“I was the most confident about my body a week after I delivered my second baby (now 4 months),” Amber Melo told TODAY Moms. “I was back in a bikini before three weeks postpartum. I didn't look my best ever, but was so proud of what my body was capable of. I love my body.”
We asked moms to send in photos of their post-partum bodies, of all shapes and sizes. Thanks to everyone who submitted an image. This Valentine's Day, remember to send a little love to your body: You are all beautiful mamas.