If you’ve been an avid Mad Men watcher, you’ll no doubt have been a little bit shocked by the storyline where the usually lithe and perennially stunning character Betty (Draper) Francis has rapidly gained a fair amount of weight between seasons. Betty is painted as a fairly unlikeable character and since her weight gain storyline there has been an explosion on the internet of nasty jokes about the character and much analysis of the complicated Betty and her emotional struggles which are so poignantly obvious in this episode. If you’re interested you can read more about Betty On Pedestrian TV, GQ Online, and Bohemea.
However, I’m not so interested in analysing Betty as I am interested in what this brings up for you? What are your thoughts and experiences of the phenomenon of the housewife and mother weight gain?
The biggest shift when becoming a mother are your shifting values. Suddenly you and your needs are no longer your prime concern. You have a tiny person, or persons for which you are responsible and this causes a massive upheaval in your values. Your needs get shunted down the list as the parental hormones surge and you feel the parental love that would cause you to do “anything” to protect your children. This is usually the beginning of “mother guilt”, which can prevent you from doing things from yourself without waves of guilt.
With this new role comes sleep deprivation, and a steep emotional learning curve all at once. If you are getting by on broken and very limited sleep then food is your first and most instant source of energy to get you through. Attempt to plan ahead as much as possible and have emergency snacks, and pre-prepared meals that are easy to grab and run, so you don’t get tempted by high calorie, low nutrition foods when you are out.
I have found that in any life-transition like this there is often a huge emotional flux and often issues that you had thought long gone seem to re-appear or surface asking to be dealt with. When you become a parent and wife, then any issues or unresolved emotional pain about your own parents and childhood can surface as you grapple with creating your own identity within the roles. Your parents are your first and most powerful models that you have for creating your own identity and habits, often as a child you can misinterpret and misunderstand their behaviour and this can cause warped and one-sided perspectives that can cause pain or distress, which can resurface as you re-process your childhood now through the eyes of a parent, rather than a child. Many people say they understand their parents for the first time after becoming a parent.
Your relationship with your partner comes under massive pressure at this time also, as you and your partner both go through these two re-organisations above, and your relationship comes under pressure too. You are no longer just the two of you, often sleep deprived and potentially under financial pressure, your sex drive, passion and intimacy can go out the window for extended periods of time. Your partner may also be under the strain of being “the provider” ( unconscious social memes and expectations can be a huge influence at this time) and he may see you differently now that you are a mother.
Looking after children is an emotional rollercoaster, at one end the huge highs, laughter, joy and intense love, and at the other end, frustration, guilt, anger, sadness and worry. This emotional journey and fluctuation can take a toll.
Many women consciously and unconsciously sacrifice parts of themselves to become parents, often giving up work, their hobbies, interests and friends, to become a parent. This can create a huge internal emotional strain and sense of grieving or loss. There can be a feeling of loss of your own dreams and hopes as you take on new roles and responsibilities.
Pregnancy can take a huge physical and emotional toll on the body, and can change your own perception of your body and sexuality as parts of you that were once reserved solely for sex and pleasure, now become quite functional. Many women talk about losing their ‘mojo’ at this time.
As your tasks, responsibilities and bills pile up and young children slow you down, you could buy into the idea that there is no time, energy or money to look after your health.
For some women having a child can bring up fears and concerns about their own mortality.
All of these emotional and psychological upheavals can lead to poor food choices, skipping exercise, not making time for yourself, putting yourself last and losing your drive and spark. The key to navigating these obstacles successfully is to remember that the best way you can ensure success and happiness for your children is to create that for yourself.
What are your thoughts on this? Did you gain weight when you had children? Which of these issues did you struggle with and how did you overcome them? Do you have any tips for other mothers? Got any great tips or snacks that really helped you get through this challenging time?
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