Recently, while coming down from an incredibly unproductive Red Bull high, I had an epiphany. You see, I’m a fairly new mom. In 2012 I got married, and less than two months later, I found myself peeing on a stick before work. Oh hey, look at those two little lines! From there, things escalated quite quickly, and my husband and I now have two feisty boys a mere 15 months apart.
The universe does indeed have a sense of humor.
In less than three years, I went from mowing the yard in my bikini while drinking mimosas to wearing (gulp) mom jeans and trying to lose weight so that I might one day return to those size 6’s, which if I’m being honest is very ambitious. One day, while scrolling through Facebook, I found myself grading my mom bod on a comparative scale next to my ridiculously good-looking peers. That got me thinking—comparing myself to everyone else is getting exhausting and binge drinking Red Bull is a seriously expensive habit. How might my perspective change if I stopped trying to present an unrealistic image of my filtered life to my fellow Facebookers and offered them a bit of the unfiltered, squishy truth?
It seems as though I have been competing my entire life. From playing sports to landing my first real job, I have always been in competition with those around me. I have been a competitive athlete ever since I can remember, and I have a basement full of old boxes filled with medals and ribbons telling me that I didn’t completely suck. But my competitive spirit didn’t stop there.
I’ve caused serious damage to friendships due to drunken intramural soccer games. I’ve pieced together many profanity-laced rants after beach volleyball games that lacked the A-game of my peers, and I’ve got more than just a few gray hairs that have been caused by college football season. I’m a jerk when it comes to sports, OK?
The first step to recovery is acknowledging that I have a problem, and you will be happy to know that after I had my boys that acknowledgment bitch-slapped me right across my smug little face.
Once I had kids, my life became less about competing with others and more about just trying not to hate myself. After I had my boys, I beat myself up mentally every day. I would look in the mirror, trying to find my way through the maze of stretch marks and wondering if my abs would ever come out of hiding again. I would stare at my college jeans and cry, cursing all the tacos and chocolate milkshakes I consumed during my back-to-back pregnancies. For the first time in my life, I felt like a loser—a squishy, vulnerable loser. My body image had taken a major blow.
I envied the superwomen who bravely wore their bikinis mere weeks after delivering their babies. I was jealous of their perfect, muffin-top-less silhouettes and their chiseled collar bones. Meanwhile, back in crazy town, I was too embarrassed to show my face at the local Walmart because society told me that having two babies wasn’t an excuse to not look like a lingerie model (seriously…Walmart).
I would deprive myself of food. Then I would get so ravenously hungry that I would devour a pack of Oreos like it was the last effing supper. I took spin classes at the gym like they were candy. “I’m just trying to get healthy,” I told everyone. Lies! I’m as healthy as a horse. I was trying to get the abs of Jessica Alba, the arms of Jennifer Aniston, and the ass of Beyoncé. Totally realistic, right? I was a woman gone mad because I was obsessed with the idea of an old reflection, and I was hell-bent on not giving up until I saw that person again.
The worst part? In the midst of my questionable mental status, negative body image, and love/hate relationship with the elliptical, I was neglecting the ones who really mattered—the sweet, beautiful little boys whose very existence depended on 100% of my undivided, undistracted, unwavering attention.
One day after dropping my kids off at the gym day care, my oldest son, Dylan, ran to the glass door as I was leaving. His big blue eyes started to tear up, and he squished his perfect little nose against the glass door, begging me with the mighty powers of his adorableness not to leave him in that petri dish.
In that moment, I could feel my heart breaking into a thousand selfish pieces. Had I become so obsessed with my reflection and keeping up with the spring breakers on social media that I was neglecting the miracles that made my body the way it is in the first place? Was fitting into my comically small high school jeans again more important than spending time with my kids?
I made an important decision that day. I decided to stop competing with an image, to stop tearing myself down, and to drink a milkshake. I allowed myself to not be perfect. I allowed myself to stop sucking in every time I walked by a mirror. I allowed myself to eat a real meal and stop wearing Spanx to bed.
I decided that being a mom is enough. Really, it’s more than enough.
My priorities are my boys, not my backside. I take care of myself, but more importantly, I take care of them. And trust me when I say that I burn plenty of calories taking care of them. A little healthy competition is normal. Being healthy is great and keeping fit is fine, but never again will I prioritize swimsuit season over these precious years I have with my little ones.
Fuck social media for making me feel like I had to compete with anyone to prove that I could still be who I used to be. I will always be that person. I will always be an obnoxious Uno player and my friends’ least favorite person during football season. And though my pants are a bit stretchier and my dresses are a size (or two, or three—whatever) larger, I’ll always be a cut-throat bitch at heart.
But I’m feeling more and more like we’re all on the same team—and honestly, I hope we all win.