A very fit mom of three has recently caused quite a bit of controversy over a photo of herself and her three young children she posted on Facebook. In the photo the 32 year old, Maria Kang, poses in a skimpy workout outfit to reveal washboard abs and an incredibly toned physique. Her three young sons surround her on the floor with ages attached to each, 8 months, 2 years, and 3 years.
However, the part that seems to have set off the viral spiral of this photo is the seemingly accusatory remark that looms over this attractive young family, “What’s your excuse?”
Since we now live in an age of social media where anything seemingly harmlessly posted on Facebook, tweeted or Instagramed is no longer personal and can quickly go viral in a cause an otherwise ordinary person to be an overnight web sensation with good or bad publicity. Maybe this young women did not mean to offend her followers but when a posting like this takes off to the mass public, people feel compelled to share their opinions and emotional reactions to it and the originator of the post/photo.
In my opinion, I do believe it’s commendable that this healthy mom has been able to achieve such an incredibly fit physique after having three young children in less than four years. However she is by far the exception to the average woman’s body after three kids and the caption, “What’s your excuse?”, comes off as accusatory and egotistical rather than inspiring as she says claims she intended it to be. Maybe a better caption should have read “You can do it too!” or “Love the Babies but shed the Baby Fat!”
She probably could have cashed in big on a postpartum exercise DVD or established a new career as a top personal trainer, inspirational speaker, blogger, etc. Instead a remark reading the wrong way seems to just add more shame to the rest of us with young babies, especially those of us who can never seem to kick those last 10 pounds (or more) of post baby weight.
Kang explains, “I wanted to inspire people,” she explains, adding that the “What’s your excuse?” part was simply a borrowed, popular phrase that’s been used in various “fitspiration” campaigns. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.’” Maybe that caption would have translated better…
Kang, of Sacramento, California, is a former pageant queen and fitness competitor who founded the nonprofit Fitness Without Borders in 2007. Ironically, she's also a recovering bulimic. Kang says she understands why some people reacted so defensively. “I think people struggle with their weight. When you add on being a mother — and the pressures we face to have it all and be everything, including fit — the expectations are so high. I think some moms saw the picture and just said, ‘This is ridiculous.’” But still, she says, “I felt really frustrated. Being called a bad mother and a bad person definitely hurts.”
Although Kang posted this photo a year ago to her Facebook page, it only recently went viral. She recently reposted it to her 72,000 followers along with a “sort of” apology.
“I'm sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won't go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It's yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn't create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life.”
This apology/response which started off well seemed to end with the same accusatory tone her initial photo caption embodied. Clearly this addendum did not help her case to water down the haters. On the other hand her critics have not been too tactful in their retaliation calling her a “bully” and blaming her for the body shaming problem in the country, etc.
I think the learnings we can take from this are that moms everywhere feel they need support not criticism, especially from other moms. Women have long struggled with body image, multitasking and balancing life with children, work and other demands, let alone working out to achieve their pre-baby body or better. It is encouraging and inspiring to see that it can be done, albeit by a gorgeous beauty queen mom who may be a few years younger than many of us middle aged moms who have to work harder with bodies that are less forgiving after multiple pregnancies. Now I too am going on a bit of a rampage, although hopefully not a hateful one. I do admire someone that can achieve this level of fitness with or without children and marvel even more that a mom of three young children who can accomplish this feat (assuming there’s not a lot of airbrushing going on here).
But again, I really don’t think her caption or tone of apology was appropriate. I also think that in this social media frenzy age we have regular ordinary people becoming celebrities overnight with viral photos and videos. These ordinary people are not used to this level of media attention and are usually totally blindsided and unprepared for the sudden level scrutiny and feedback that follows. Maybe we should think twice before tweeting or Facebook posting something that may sound hurtful or mean. Having babies and taking care of children is an amazing job and a tremendously challenging job that is a lifetime commitment. Most of us are surprised by the level of responsibility and commitment as well as the level of love and attachment we feel for our kids. It’s sometimes hard to find the time or justify the time to take care of ourselves, our health and our bodies. But we should take care of ourselves and we should support and not shame one another.