Jillian Michaels learns that parenting isn’t for sissies

Jillian Michaels — the fitness guru who made her name on The Biggest Loser — has recently entered a new stage of life. She adopted a 2-year-old from Haiti right around the same time her partner gave birth to a baby boy. So she’s gone quite suddenly from a no-kid home to total kid chaos. And, according to an interview in People (which I learned about from Lisa Belkin’s blog over at HuffPo), it’s kicking her ass. She hasn’t been to the gym in two weeks!

As she tells People, “I have to figure out how to take care of myself right now,” she says. “Telling moms ‘You need to put yourself first’? It’s impossible to put yourself first when you’re a Mom…Parenting is not for sissies. You have to sacrifice and grow up.”

I agree that it’s not for sissies. But I worry that the two week gym hiatus from a work-out junkie, and the pronouncements after mere weeks of parenthood that it’s “impossible” to do this or that when you’re a mother hint at the same extreme views about motherhood that Michaels touted in a Women’s Health article a few years ago (which Lisa also quotes). Michaels had said she planned to adopt rather than give birth because her job is to look good and “I can’t handle doing that to my body.” (As it turns out, endometriosis was probably just as important a factor in the decision — but Michaels likes to be brash).

So there we go. Our fitness guru believes pregnancy ruins your body and it’s so so difficult to take care of yourself once the kids arrive (even if you have all the resources Michaels does). She apologizes that she just didn’t get it before. Can the sweat pants and mom jeans be far behind?

But all this extremism creates a faulty impression of parenthood in general when some “inevitable” side effects are the result of choices. I’ve started running within about two weeks of giving birth all three times — using it as a chance to get out of the house — because I think fitness should be a priority. I assume Michaels thinks it’s a priority, and so she and her partner can trade off so they can both take care of themselves. As for pregnancy ruining one’s body, I’ve found that the baby weight has been harder to lose this time than the first two times (see The Gladwyne Diet post) but I’m down to 126.5 lbs as of today. So only 1.5 lbs to go. It would have been easier to just stay at 140 lbs and tell anyone who’d listen that that’s just what happens when you have three kids in five years, but it isn’t just what happens. It would have been a choice.

Parenting extremism gives us lists of things to do before having kids…as if life ends when you have them. It romanticizes life with small children in a way that then leaves parents who discover it’s not all bliss feeling lonely, isolated and upset with themselves. Better, I believe, to hew to more modest beliefs. Parenting, like any project, is a lot of work. It can be transcendent at times. At other points, it can be downright miserable. But whatever is important to you before becoming a parent can still be important to you afterwards. Hopefully Michaels will see that once she gets used to the chaos.


15 thoughts on “Jillian Michaels learns that parenting isn’t for sissies

  1. In Jillian’s defense, I’m guessing that bringing a newborn plus an adopted toddler (which brings a whole other set of issues – attachment, communication issues, etc.) into her home is pretty much rocking her world. I’m sure she’ll establish a new rhythm, but I don’t blame her for it taking a while.

    1. @Sarah- perhaps a more interesting question is why we expect deep insight on motherhood from celebrities who are all of one month into the project. I’m sure it all is rocking her world. On the other hand, the family found time to talk to a reporter from People and sit for a photo shoot!

  2. I don’t know if I’m quite this optimistic. Parenthood, specifically motherhood, does completely change your body… I have recently been at the baby pool and the choice to look 110 lbs and rocking usually involves hours and hours of fitness (which in some cases is oppression disguised as empowerment) and a full time job watching what you eat… I just don’t know if this is the right message…

  3. Frankly, I’d say your anecdote is as unrealistic, as the ones you are criticizing. In an effort to fault “parenting extremism” you have fallen into another type of extremism.

    I wonder the message you are sending with this: “I’ve started running within about two weeks of giving birth all three times — using it as a chance to get out of the house — because I think fitness should be a priority.”

    You do realize that many women cannot physically run two weeks after giving birth, right? It’s terrific that your body hasn’t changed after childbirth. However, again for many of us — even those who exercise and eat properly –our bodies change in permanent ways. I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight (twice) within weeks after giving birth (which I know is unrealistic for many); however, my body is completely different. For me, motherhood has left lasting scars. I don’t think it does much to argue that it isn’t always that way — because it is that way for some? many? It’s not all about poor time management or poor focus.

    1. And in fact, my doctor recommended NOT doing strenuous exercise for 6 weeks post-partum at least.

      I think parenthood is very “to each his own” and making pronouncements about what other people are doing is not very useful and just comes across as judgmental.

      It’s very possible they got paid $$$ by People, as well as the fact that “being a celebrity” is JM’s job (whether we think that’s worthwhile or not). So her priority may have been attending to her career rather than using that time to get to the gym.

      Sorry, the argument of “I did x, I don’t understand why someone else can’t get it together” is a pet peeve of mine.

      1. That’s a good point, ARC. About 3 weeks after birth I was my lowest weight since I was 15. With little to no exercise. Apparently nursing is fantastic weight-loss technique for my specific physical situation. I wouldn’t expect that to happen for most people. I definitely wouldn’t go around saying, “it’s easy, you just nurse and the pounds melt off.” I’m not even sure that’s going to be true for me this second time! (Nor will I probably care, so long as I have some clothing that fits.)

        Yes, I get that we shouldn’t make pronouncements that something is impossible, but I also agree that we shouldn’t be making value judgments on other people. Losing weight is difficult and personally I don’t think it’s a good metric, especially since it can lead to really unhealthy living. If we’re going to focus on something, why not physical fitness and health? At least there’s reasons for wanting to be healthy that aren’t superficial and don’t lead to other people wanting to be anorexic.

        1. @N&M – that’s great that the weight melted off for you. Per my post, the pounds did *not* just melt off for me in an easy fashion. I’m not Heidi Klum able to do a runway show 6 weeks after giving birth. I lost the baby weight in the way that one hears from public health officials all the time will work for the average person: exercising 30-45 minutes a day, and controlling portion sizes. It’s taken a long time — 8 months almost to lose 16 lbs. That’s half a pound a week – and it’s been a lot of work to stick with it –but it’s hardly anorexic style weight loss.

          1. It’s just.. would men be doing this… would they be putting one more thing on their to do list… when they are stay at home dads..w ould they spend hours at the gym to have the perfect body.. no they do not.. and it is b/c women are still oppressed.. i do think you are right to get healthy and look nice and 30 to 45 minutes and portion control seems reasonable..for me though it is a struggle… also she got a baby from haiti b/c that is the only place to get a 2-year old BUt I wanted to let folks know.. there are dozens of kids IN THE US who need homes.. go to http://www.adoptuskids.org
            if you can take more than one child (siblings) there are some beautiful kids on there with no parents… I wish I could take some… and I wish to have this and my work be more important than my appearance.. when that happens we live in empowered society for women.. until then.. may all moms feel healthy and happy

          2. The point is still the same, for a lot of women, 30-45 min is going to be difficult to come by because their lives are different and it’s going to be harder for many to lose that weight than just 30-45 min. Your experience is not everyone else’s just like my experience is not everyone else’s.
            When I’m not pregnant, nursing, or taking metformin, I have to be very careful about eating and exercise or I rapidly get into the unhealthy weight range and get unpleasant negative side-effects like hypoglycemia, skin tags, acanthosis nigirins etc. It is incredibly difficult, as it is for most of the 10% of women in the US with PCOS. Part of the reason I lose so much weight nursing is because the effort I expend by habit is more than normal women need to stay healthy, and when I’m nursing I am physically normal. It is not the same amount of easy for everyone so “I did x, I don’t understand why someone else can’t get it together” well, one could throw the word privilege around. Heck, there’s no reason for women to have to lose any weight after pregnancy to begin with– if they’d just been working harder, all that weight would have gone to the baby and would have been gone right away. Of course, that’s not going to be good for the baby, just like excessive exercise while nursing isn’t good for the baby.
            I also think having a specific pound limit is an unhealthy frame. Not that you’re anorexic, but, as I said, that frame is part of why many American women are unhealthily obsessed with weight. I agree with Cara on that subject. Weight is not what is important, health is what is important. And there’s a wide range of healthy weights. I suppose appearance is important if you’re working in the media, but women tend to be more attractive at higher weight ranges than they think they are.

  4. Thanks for writing about motherhood & fitness. (And congrats on being close to your fitness goal!) As a young woman not yet with kids, I’ve heard the “you won’t sleep and you’ll get fat” talk from mothers, like that is just the way it is. But then, I’ve observed some mothers using their time wisely to get fit. One coworker does aerobics on her lunch break then eats at her desk (a simple, healthy lunch). Another has a treadmill at home and does 45 minutes on that after work. I too hope that Jillian Michaels figures out some way to work out her schedule to exercise. It would be a great example.

    1. @Susan – thanks for your comment! Yes, motherhood adds a layer of complexity to things that should be simple, like finding time to work out, but as you’ve noticed, there are people who do it. And they all have the exact same 168 hours per week as the rest of us. I imagine that, over time, Michaels will find a schedule that works for her and her family. Sometimes it requires a big goal. I signed up for a marathon after having my second kid in part to give me the kick in the pants necessary to train.

  5. I remember that comment from Jillian Michaels and she’s probably going to eat a little crow for that. Childless people tend to say things that they regret after becoming parents.

    All my births were drug free, and 4 of them were at home – so I felt really good right away. But I was never up to running within two weeks after my births. I did start out walking right away, and doing stretches though. I also didn’t wait 6 weeks to resume… other activities. 😉

    But I remember going to the Zoo at 2 months postpartum, and looking at hubby and telling him “This was a mistake. I wasn’t up to this.” Everything was hurting, my girlie parts begin aching, and things were beginning to spin around me. Of course it was summer, and I had a total of 6 kids with me.

    Everyone’s different I guess.

  6. Anything a new parent says after only 2 weeks is just emotions, good or bad. Give Jillian a little time and she’ll figure out that even though it’s a little harder now, she CAN fit in time to exercise. We’ve all had those “always/never” feelings at one time or another.

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