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.