When I lived in Santa Monica, California, I recall how a popular radio DJ, Danny Bonaduce, of The Jamie and Danny Show, used to chronicle his wife’s pregnancy and her road to recovery afterward. On the air, he’d talk about many topics, and, of course, being in Los Angeles, reconstructive surgery after delivery was a de rigueur subject. I can’t recall what specific surgery his wife had—whether breast reconstruction or vaginal tightening—but I do recall how listeners called in and completely supported these types of “mom job” surgeries. “Mom jobs” include things like tummy tucks, boob lifts, breast implants, vaginal tightening, and liposuction. Their goal is to erase the effects of pregnancy or multiple pregnancies—so women can get rid of stretch marks, sagging skin, extra pounds, etc.
Sadly, after living in Los Angeles for a while, these topics didn’t shock me at all. The pressure to be beautiful and forever youthful is intense in southern California—fueling aging women’s insecurities. So when a colleague forwarded me a New York Times article, “Is the Mom Job Really Necessary?” this issue didn’t surprise me in the least. I’m also not certain that these mom jobs are fueled by husband’s pressuring their wives. Admit it—we women can be incredibly hard on ourselves. When we are surrounded by beautiful people and perhaps have fears and insecurities driven from our pasts or childhoods—we can push ourselves to be the “yummy mummy” or “MILF” (mother I’d like to f$#k).
The New York Times piece blamed the media largely for this current trend, pointing out various publications that endorse the perfect, new, skinny, beautiful mom—surprisingly, including popular parenting magazine, Cookie, which published an article describing post-pregnancy drooping breasts as an indignity.
Earlier this week, I chatted with a midwife in London who has four children of her own. She teaches women about labor and delivery and tries to empower women not to be afraid of this process as it is one that deserves awe and admiration. She was saddened to learn that so many women are fearful of childbirth and don’t look at it as an amazing experience. This woman, who is also fit and youthful, advises women to work out and keep a healthy lifestyle to lose the baby weight.
However, women with several children typically put family needs first and goals for workouts can fall by the wayside easily. I chatted with another mom recently—one who is quite beautiful and the mother of three children. She empathized that some women are torn between two strong needs—the desire to have children and give birth and the need to see the same look of desire in their partner’s eyes. With that said, she too advocated dieting and trying to find time to work out first.
Since the New York Times article referred to the 1970s best selling book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, I decided to reach out to its author, Nancy London, MSW. The feminist and author of another best-seller, Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty replied: “The mom jobs leave me feeling dismayed as to the state of current feminist consciousness. When did we take such a very seriously wrong turn in the road? The sheer cost of one such procedure is enough to feed the homeless in my town for months.”
I’m sure this is true. These surgeries, depending on what combination of options you chose, can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 each. Can you imagine the numbers of children that could be fed in certain countries in Africa? Multiply that by 325,000—the number of mommy makeovers conducted last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
But, to play devil’s advocate, some moms who may have been dieting and working out religiously for years—without desired results—may just want to feel sexy again. Perhaps after breast-feeding three children, their breasts sag. Perhaps after C-sections, they can’t get rid of a protruding abdomen and it makes them self-conscious. I’m one for empowerment and respect. I do think the media over-sensationalizes the gorgeous celebrity mommy who is completely fit and unchanged just after birth. It just isn’t natural. We all can’t be Angelina Jolie. Most of us don’t have an entourage of dieticians, personal trainers, and beauticians to pamper us and sculpt us back into our pre-pregnancy bodies. Should that even be our goal? Dads out there, what do you think? Moms—how does this make you feel? I’d really like to know.