Jessica Alba wrote a sweet ode to motherhood on iVillage today, explaining how sexy she feels since becoming a mom. It’s awesome to hear a mom say she feels good about her body, against a backdrop of headlines ridiculing moms who don’t. But on the other hand…I think she sets up an unfair double-standard for women: That moms should feel good about themselves by virtue of not caring about how they look, while women who don’t have kids are…left to feel obsessed with their bodies because they’re not distracted by the tireless needs of babes. Cheers to Alba for kissing her insecurities goodbye; but don’t all of us deserve the chance to do the same, whatever life choices we make?
Alba, mother to Honor (almost four) and Haven (nine months), says she feels her sexiest now, thanks to her kids:
…becoming a mom has definitely made me feel more confident and secure than I ever did in my 20s. Even though I can’t ever get down to my pre-baby weight before having Honor, my jeans don’t zip up the same way, and things just hang differently (all moms know how that goes!), I feel completely comfortable in my skin and my idea of perfection has changed.
A friend once ordered her husband to bring a pair of her favorite non-maternity jeans to the hospital after giving birth to her first child. When she tried to put them on, she cried. That’s probably because not enough people are saying what Alba did: That having babies really does change your body. A lot. Even if you’re Jessica Alba.
But then she goes on to say:
I don’t really care about my body image anymore because it just doesn’t matter now that I have children. Instead, I focus on my health, feeling strong, and making sure I’m up and running so I can spend that all-important time with the girls.
Which is, kind of…depressing. Not that she’s prioritizing her health and ability to be strong for herself and her family; that’s great. But the message that once you have kids, everything you care about must somehow serve your kids, and that ultimately, you care about yourself less. (On a side note, I’d argue that mothers’ body image actually does matter a lot, especially if your kids happen to be daughters, like Alba’s are).
She further credits her kids for giving her not just confidence, but even some of her own personality:
Having babies also helped me embrace my sexuality. Up until then, I was quite shy about it. But once I experienced how incredible and amazing it was to create a life, it was empowering. Now, I feel freer to express myself and just be me. Through motherhood I really came into my own and, for me, feeling sexy is all about this type of comfort, confidence, and true happiness.
At 31, you could argue that Alba might just be, you know, growing up; with or without kids, a lot of women say they feel more comfortable with their identity and bodies in their 30s than 20s. As someone who doesn’t have kids (and isn’t Jessica Alba), I’ll concede that I really don’t know–all I do know is that for a lot of women, babies don’t erase issues like body image and low confidence.
Jessica Alba works in Hollywood; she was beautiful, young and sexy by society’s definition before she had kids, and like many women in the industry, she’s retained those qualities as a mother, too. That doesn’t mean she can’t relate to other women’s insecurities or body image issues, but let’s be real: It’s a little easier to feel confident when you meet all the prerequisites for beauty by society’s strictest standards. For the vast majority of women, concerns about the changes that age and kids bring on are only the tip of the iceberg; we’re also battling against constant reminders of how we do or don’t fit the mold set by models and celebrities.
If having kids doesn’t make that all magically disappear…I don’t think it makes you a bad mom. In fact, I think it makes you pretty normal.
And yet, Alba’s message is ultimately that if we’re able to give ourselves over to parenting completely, we’ll be happy, be sexy, and feel “free.” I wish that were the case, but unfortunately, I think messages like this just add more pressure to moms who, like any other woman, struggle to balance their body image, self-esteem, and other non-baby struggles with the rest of their lives.