What Do Men Think About Women’s Post-Baby Bodies?
You might be surprised – in a good way!
When I was a fresh-out-of-college editorial assistant at a women’s magazine, I had to fact-check an article by a pop psychologist on how a woman could prevent her husband from having an affair. Among the tips: A new mom needs to make her partner feel special. In essence, if she doesn’t baby the daddy, he’ll stray.
Although I was a decade away from being a new mom myself, I was put off by that advice. A woman is recovering from a pregnancy and delivery, her hormones are out of whack, she’s sleep-deprived, may be nursing, is probably having major body-image issues and it’s her responsibility to ensure that her husband doesn’t sneak out for sex? Give a girl a break.
While there are men who cheat on their pregnant or post-partum partners, and there are men who shun a woman’s changed body, I believe that most guys aren’t so cruel or shallow. Still, a couple’s sex-after-baby dynamic can be filled with physical and emotional landmines.
She’s probably feeling exhausted, flabby, unattractive. (Unlike Heidi Klum and other celebrity übermoms, real life women don’t bounce back into bikinis within days of giving birth.) He’s likely proud and stressed, especially if he’s a first time dad. He may also be feeling both eager and tentative: He wants to get back in the sack, but he saw the woman he loves in agony, and he doesn’t want to cause her more pain. He wants to do all sorts of erotic things, but he remembers her being stretched wide or cut open in a way that’s both fascinating and horrifying.
From my unscientific digging, it seems that women—and the media—are more critical about and obsessed with the post-partum body than men are.
“What we found is that most women are much harder on themselves than their partners are on them,” says Claire Mysko, co-author with Magali Amadeï of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? “Men do notice the body changes, but they don’t scrutinize them as much as women lament every stretch mark. Most guys told us they just wanted their partners to feel good about their bodies.”
That’s reassuring, but what about those men who don’t accept a woman’s now less than perfectly taut belly, boobs and bottom? “We did encounter a few guys [like that],” Mysko and Amadei write. “These are men who are just generally shaming and critical of women’s bodies, whether they’re pregnant or not. For these guys, their superficial obsession with women’s weight and appearance is really about their own baggage. Their time would be better spent dealing with those issues instead of picking on their partners.” Touché.