Debra’s baby is 3 months old and it’s been a rewarding but rough trot – busy days, broken sleep, a few hiccups with breastfeeding, baby’s had a cold, she’s run down. She plops down on the sofa next to her husband after finally getting bub asleep and a really long day (he’s been away on a work trip – again), and he can’t take his eyes off a vital-looking curvaceous blonde on the screen. Feeling like a handful of very small change compared to the on-screen babe who looks a million bucks, she loses it.
Of course, Debra is exhausted and overwhelmed by the relentlessness of caring for a baby and a mountain of domestic responsibilities as well as an often absent husband. Her partner sounds like many guys who are exhausted themselves from working long hours. He may even have the notion that she has the easy job –a whole day to herself to sip lattes with her mums’ group. While it doesn’t help to have your man ogling a babe on the television when you can’t even recognise the body you see in the mirror, it is a sad reflection on the pressures women with new babies face when you feel you need to live up to some ideal of a yummy mummy as well as a perfect mother and domestic goddess.
According to relationship counsellor Lisa Fettling (www.lisafettling.com.au, Debra’s reactions and concerns speak volumes about her own self-image and the state of her relationship. Lisa, who specialises in helping new parents says, “a new mother has her eye on every ball at once, she can’t take care of her baby unless she is cared for herself. She needs to be able to sit with her partner and talk about how she feels and to ask for the support she needs from him – and to be understood. After caring for a baby all day, many new mothers want to ask for a cuddle, but they are afraid that this will be a green light for sex, so instead she either withdraws or gets angry and a wall goes up between the couple. Nothing is going to happen unless she is feeling emotionally supported by her partner.”
Lara, mum of a now two year old says, “when I was overwhelmed in the early months and feeling less than ‘hot’ it wasn’t so much about my body image – I never looked like the babes on television before I had a baby so why would I expect to look like one now? If I could get a bit of space for myself, even to read a book in bed for half an hour without either a baby or partner making demands of me, I felt much better. I didn’t have the energy to care about trying to be hot: I figured that my partner was a bit like a starving man, he would be grateful for any crumbs he got. And the more supported I felt, the more likely he was to get ‘dessert’.”
If you are feeling less than a wee bit ‘hot’ right now, let go of the pressure. Perhaps comments in an interview with Angelina Jolie might help: Angelina said, “I’m with a man who’s evolved enough to look at my body and see it as more beautiful because of the journey it has taken.” And, if your man seems less evolved than you would like, consider – do you think he is comparing himself to Brad Pitt and wondering even the teeniest bit how he might measure up in your eyes?