It’s the elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. No, not the mom who has to lose a few pounds. Nope, not even the big-boned mamas out there. This is about the big mom. The fat one. The one who needs a belt extension on a flight to Orlando. The one who dreads turn-stalls and small claustrophobic restroom stalls. The mom who was told how difficult it would be to become pregnant. And when she DID get pregnant, people just stared at her tummy and said they couldn’t tell the difference. The mom who has had to breastfeed with one hand holding the breast back, as to not suffocate the baby while the other hand holds the baby and still using a million pillows for support; it’s a whole thing. Yes, the fat mom. She’s got a life that you know nothing about. She’s the one who is everywhere but rarely seen.
It’s the mom who cannot carry her toddler up the stairs. The mom who holds her child at the tip of her lap. It’s the mom who’d rather stand for hours than sit in a chair that she pours out of. The mom who shrinks into her seat when the amusement ride harness isn’t big enough. When the booth at the restaurant isn’t wide enough. The blood pressure cuff isn’t long enough. The mom who hates disappointing her child but feels that she does when she lags behind the crowd. “Bless her heart for trying to walk up that steep hill with her energetic boys…she really tries!” But some things are near impossible for her. She can’t squat to help her daughter with her laces. It’s even hard to bend sometimes.
Did you know that the fat mom has been on diets all her life? Atkins? Done that. Weight Watchers? Done that, too. South Beach? Never been but tried it. And the fat mom has had enough cabbage soup to be declared an Honorary Cabbage Patch Mom! She’s lost 20, then 15. 30 then 5. She went from a size 24 to a size 20. Did you notice? No one really ever does. There are two types of people in the world: the fats and the fat-nots.
The struggle of a fat mom is one many don’t realize. There is a constant contrast of who the world thinks she is and who she really is. On the outside, she’s a self-indulging, lazy mom with poor health habits. She’s fat, so she eats cake for breakfast and cheeseburgers for dinner. Also, she’s fat, so she must be funny- to be laughed with sometimes (everyone’s got a funny fat friend) but mostly to be laughed at. And on the inside, she’s battling herself. Word of advice: she can ALSO see that she is fat and doesn’t need to be told. Actually, what you may see may not be that big, but to herself, objects in mirror may appear larger than they seem.
Still, the fat mom feels like she is deserving of love. She feels worthy and pretty…until told otherwise. They like to assume that she’s let herself go. She even remembers when they lovingly said, “You would be beautiful if you lost the weight.” Awww, thanks! They’re confused by what her husband sees in her: “How can he be attracted to her? I mean, it’s easy if they were both fat, but he’s not,” they whisper. She hears but pretends she doesn’t. Game face.
The fat mom wants you to know that this big and bold exterior is thick but porous. She may be able to deflect the negativity, but she also takes it in. She is not bullet-proof and can see and hear when they tell her that this is her own doing. The disgust in people’s eyes can write volumes. Fat-shaming has always been a thing. There’s just a trendy term for it now. The assumption that fat is a result of self indulgence and lack of willpower is draining. To the world, fat is as faulty as a beat up car. Either change it completely or use at your own risk. For a fat mom, it’s not sympathy she wants. But empathy…even a little empathy is huge.
The fat mom doesn’t just carry her heavy body; she carries the weight of so much more. The baggage of being a mom while fat is difficult but to be the fat mom of a fat child is overwhelming. The shame of nurturing fat, and the guilt of being fat while nurturing fat. They’ll fault her for being an inadequate mother who enables bad behavior. The “Like mother like daughter!” observation or the “What have they been feeding her?” whisper. Then there’s the concern they express, with good intentions: “You don’t want her to end up like you, do you?” Yeah, that one stings.
Now, after spending the day carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, here’s what happens next: she brings home a great outfit, puts it on, and then stands in front of the mirror. Those snarky comments and well-meant praises begin to surface. Her reflection is a disappointment. It looked better on the hanger, she thinks. She still puts on the makeup while trying hard not to stare too long at herself. Yes, the fat mom knows what I’m talking about. She’s been there, over and over again. Big on the outside, fragile and shrinking on the inside. Her mind starts running infinitely, a record called “Self Doubt.” Is there even a point in getting ready or trying to look good? She never feels good enough.
The Safe Place
But, as she stands in front of that mirror questioning her dress, her hips, and second chin, a little face appears from the corner. It’s her little guy. He smiles at her and says, “You look beautiful Mommy!” His eyes are full of wonder. His sister is standing next to him, smiling, too. She tells her mom that she wants to look just like her. Fight the tears, mama…fight the tears! Right in that raw moment, she secretly prays that her children never endure the pain of being a fat mom. Simultaneously, her heart smiles with gratitude for the sanctity of the moment. Oh great, here comes the husband. He comes in, puts his arm around her, and kisses her on the forehead while saying something sweet. The fat mom is humbled.
The Secret Life of a Fat Mom is filled with episodes of discomfort, ridicule, and embarrassment. But between those are segments of light, laughter, and love. Even though the loving arms of her kids only reach her waist, she can feel their love all around. She may struggle to fit into a one-size-fits-all world, but in her family, she’s sized right. And that means the world to her! She secretly waits for the day her self-affirmation will mean the world to her, too.