Several weeks ago, I created a survey to learn how new(ish) moms feel about their bodies and what their biggest challenges are. Women from across the U.S. and Canada participated, along with a few fellow expats living in Europe and the Bahamas. As I reached out to friends to take the survey and pass it on through their networks, many of them expressed interest in learning more about the survey results. They wanted to know, are we all in the same boat together!?
What I found so interesting about the results is that despite the geographic, socio-economic, and age differences amongst the participants, their experiences had many commonalities. Most are not happy with their post-partum bodies, many find it difficult to eat healthfully and fit in exercise, and almost everyone is exxxxxxxhausted.
One of the topics in which I was particularly interested is how how women felt about their bodies during pregnancy and whether or not they worried about weight gain during that time. Based on all the complaints I hear from moms (myself included!), I expected most women to report that they were unhappy with their bodies during pregnancy. I was thus surprised that nearly half the participants reported that they looooved their body during pregnancy; another 35% said that they had a love-hate relationship with their body. Fifty-one percent of participants said they did worry about weight gain during pregnancy; only 14% did not.
So what happened once the baby was born? I asked participants to identify their top three challenges throughout the first year of motherhood. During the first three months after birth, the stressors were clear: lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed, and difficulty breastfeeding. During the 3-6 month period, responses were more diverse: Finding “me” time, managing the transition back to work, and a general feeling of stress. From 6-12 months, things got more racy: the biggest challenges were finding “fun time” with their partners, battling a low sex drive, and finding time to exercise.
Participants indicated they were less satisfied with their bodies after birth. Three months post-partum, 32% of has lost some –but not all–of the baby weight; 19% had gained weight. One year out, most participants had gotten back to their pre-baby weight, but 20% had not. And for those who have lost the baby weight, their bodies still aren’t back to what they were: “My belly droops in the saddest way“, said one woman. “My body just isn’t the same,” said another.
Forty percent of participants modified their eating habits once the baby was born, many trying diets like South Beach, Weight Watchers or the Whole 30 challenge. While these changes helped a few, many reported that eating habits that worked pre-partum were no longer effective. “Nothing I do helps me lose weight,” said one participant.
So what’s getting in the way of us moms living more healthfully? Overwhelmingly, the top three challenges identified were lack of time (64%), sheer exhaustion (54%), and difficulty juggling schedules (42%). Close behind was feeling overwhelmed by life (38%). “I’ve gained so much weight and I can’t find the time or emotional drive to lose it,” said one woman. “I want to find a way to feel like myself again,” said another.
I asked participants to describe their lives in one word. The responses ranges from the ecstatic (“lucky,” “happy,” “wonderful”)… to the so-so (“still in transition,” meh,” “different”)… to the not-so-great (“at the service of others,” “Groundhog Day-esque,” “confusing”).
So who are these amazing participants?
- 22% are 25-29 years of age; 41% 30-34; and 25% 35-40.
- 74% have one child, 22% two, and 8% have another on its way.
- 48% work full-time, 20% part-time; and 31% stay at home (of which 84% actively chose to stay home and 16% had to due to circumstances).
- For those moms who work full-time, 52% see their kids more than 2 hours a day and 31% more than three hours.
- 55% are the primary cook for their families (with 27% sharing the duties with their partner) and most spend under an hour per day cooking.
I’m so grateful to each and every one of these ladies for giving me an insight into their lives as women and as mothers. You guys are rock stars!
For my readers out there, what do you think? Are these results in-line with your experiences as a mom?