Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Belly Will Never Be the Same

Australian model Erin McNaught is the latest woman to post a mommy body photo on Instagram. Her photo shows her in a bikini four weeks after giving birth.

''4 weeks PP [post partum] and I'm starting to get my stomach back!

Aside from lots of walking and eating healthily, I've been doing loads of pelvic floor and transverse abdominus exercises. Still no traditional ab work though which is driving me crazy! #bodyafterbaby”

The comments range from congratulatory messages for her being so healthy and working hard to the negative observations that this sends a bad message to other new moms.

There are already so many pressures placed upon women to look a certain way and be a certain way as moms, that a photo and message like this can trigger negative thoughts and behaviors in non-model moms.

The worst part of photos like this though is that it sets up a certain ideal unconsciously in women’s minds.

When I gave birth to my first child, I had never seen a post-pregnancy belly before, except for toned abs like McNaught’s.

When I looked down at my belly in the days following the birth of my daughter, I was scared. I thought my abs would never be seen again. If I had only seen other moms and their squishy post-pregnancy bellies, I wouldn’t have been so worried that there was something wrong with me.

My post-pregnancy belly
My belly button looked like a cork popping out of my round midsection.

I took a photo out of bewilderment. Would this ever reverse itself?

My belly has somewhat returned to a normal state, but regardless of how much ab work, or exercises, or dieting I do, it looks like I will always have a wonky looking belly.

Am I jealous of women like McNaught?

No. I know that every woman is different. Every body is different.

Should she be showing off her trim tummy for all to see? It’s her prerogative.

I am not one to speak, having at one time been photographed looking good. Having once made a living based on what my body looked like.

My pre-pregnancy belly
Did I ever make another woman feel bad about herself? I never really thought about it quite like that before.

Do women have a responsibility to other women when it comes to their beauty? Is there a difference between celebrating ourselves and showing off?

Should there be?

Should intent matter when it comes to sharing photos of ourselves? 

Should we have to consider how other people will react to our photos? Either out of jealousy for our killer abs or even revulsion for our wrinkly, stretch-marked bellies?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fit Moms: Inspirational or Annoying?

Check out my blog post on Huffington Post, Photos of "No Excuses" Fit Moms: Fat-Shaming or Inspiring?.

I am totally against anyone "fat-shaming," but I don't think that's what's happening in these photos. Maybe a little more in Maria Kang's photo, but Abby Pell's photo seems to be more about inspiration for moms to get in shape.

What do you think?

Do photos of fit moms saying they have no excuses and that's why they look good make you feel guilty or insecure? Or do these photos act as inspiration to you?

Or do you think this is a silly discussion?

Sound off and share your thoughts in the comments section here or on Huffington Post!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Community College Should Have Free Tuition!

Tom Hanks totally rocks it in his New York Times Op-Ed, I Owe It All to Community College: Tom Hanks on His Two Years at Chabot College.

I hereby call upon all famous people to follow suit to bring more public attention to how important affordable (free!) community college opportunities are.

As I am prepping for the semester to begin, I always look forward to my classes at Housatonic Community College. The students are most often hard-working, passionate and conscientious.

Obama’s proposed plan to make many two-year community college programs tuition-free would make such a huge difference in students’ lives. 

Just today, I received an email from a former Composition student who is hoping to take my Introduction to Literature course this spring, but had his financial aid cut. He wanted to see if I would over tally him if he is able to somehow scrape the money together at the last minute.

He was one of my star students, so of course my answer was yes. He is a fine example of a student who should have the opportunity. When someone is eager to learn, studious and ready to change their lives, we should do everything we can to help them.

I hope our country is able to put Obama’s plan into action. Let’s make education freely available to those who desire it.

This radical idea could change not only the lives of students, but also improve the entire country’s sense of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Shaking Off the Depression!

Along with the theme of wanting to shake it, I danced to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off today.

It’s a new year and I want to shake off my depression, frustration and general blahs. There’s a lot of emotional stuff going on for me right now. I have been feeling myself sinking into a kind of quiet, brooding depression punctuated by crazy anger bursts.

When I get really low, it’s hard to believe I’ll ever feel better, ever be NOT depressed.

I have to grasp at any brief moments of fresh air and when I feel them, saturate my entire self with the good vibes.

I was thinking I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, whatever that means, but I think I need to jump on this band wagon.

Nothing complicated. Nothing elaborate.

I want to keep doing yoga and keep dancing as often as I can without those activities becoming weighed down with the burden of keeping me undepressed.

I want to every day pause in the morning, if only for five minutes, and fill myself with positive thoughts. Even if I’m in a depression, I want to be required to spend five measly minutes reflecting on the positive and feeling an attitude of gratitude.

There you go.

I think I just made a resolution I can (hopefully) keep.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Struggling Mom Wants to Break the Cycle

I was just looking through the comics I had tried doing awhile ago.

Well, awhile ago turns out to be 2008! Really, Sheila? Seven years ago I was writing about the same things I'm dealing with today, except add one more kid into the mix?

This is perhaps why I don't like to make New Year's resolutions. They seem to serve to make me regret what I don't accomplish as opposed to being happy for any little triumphs.

I wanted to keep working on my comics and try to further my drawing, but I didn't.

And it seems I'm still the "struggling mom."

Always trying, but never achieving.

Always being too hard on myself.

Maybe I should make a not be so hard on myself. To accept what is.

But if I'm not able to actually do that, will I just see it as another failure on my part?

Seems like an endless circle set up to make sure I stay stuck.

Perhaps I am a walking, talking example of a fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps my resolution instead should be to figure out how to break the cycle.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feeling the Need to Dance

I took a long break from posting my dancing videos. I needed to take a break because I didn’t know why I was doing it anymore.

My original impetus was: A former stripper, now a mom of three, I've decided to really strip down and dance and express myself, but with my clothes on. After struggling with depression my whole life and having been on antidepressants for about 15 years, I've decided to try life medication free. I realize I need something else to sustain me though. I need meaning. I need to push myself into joy every day.

And I think the dancing and putting it out there into the public as a way of sharing my journey helped, and after I stopped, the depression, of course, did creep back in.

And I’ve gone back on and off medication when the depression became so bad that I knew I needed that kind of help. I recognized it. So now, I find myself back in that place. Back on antidepressants as a way to stay functioning.

Yoga helps me, too.

But I’ve been having an urge to get off the mat and shake it. And I just want to follow my heart again. And see if it might help, even a little.

Here’s to another, Day 1: "Take Me to Church," by Hozier.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

To the Mom Struggling to Survive:

It’s ok to feel depressed.

It’s ok to say things to your kids you wish you could take back.

You can take them back. You can ask for forgiveness.

Sometimes all you can see are the shadows

You can explain to your children that sometimes even moms struggle.

It’s ok to be glad when you drop your kids off at school and to be frustrated when it’s already time to meet the bus.

It’s ok to want time to yourself, to want to have no responsibilities and to want your pre-mommy body back.

It’s understandable to feel like life for everyone would be better if you didn’t exist.

And it is ok to feel guilty afterwards for thinking that. Or to not feel guilty—to feel confused.

It’s ok if you don’t want to bake cookies or sew your own Halloween costumes. It’s ok to spend $20 on costumes at Walmart.

It’s ok if you sometimes feel like you can’t go on, that you made a mistake, that you weren’t made for this mothering thing.

And it’s ok to feel depressed about your life even if to others your life looks perfect, even then.

Maybe more so then.

You do not have to beat yourself up about feeling depressed; that will only make you feel worse.

Sometimes you will feel differently. I promise you. Even if it’s not today or tomorrow. One day, you will feel happy again.

You will smell their sweetness again. You will savor their hugs. You will feel their love’s penetrating power.

So hold on until then.

Do your best to maintain, to push on, to know that it gets better.

Because it does. It will.

You are never alone, even if it feels that way.

Even when it feels like no one understands you or what you are experiencing and you just don’t know what to do. Close your eyes, take a breath and know that somewhere, someplace, there is love.

And let that be enough.

*Inspired by Wendy Wisner's: "To the Mom of a Nursing Toddler"