We’ve all been there. One minute you’re chatting with someone about your baby or opening up a cheerful exchange with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, when suddenly the conversation takes a swift detour you should have seen coming:
“Hey, have you ever thought about trying XYZ product I am now selling? It’s totally changed my life and I swear I’m not one of those salesly people!”
Cue the moment you want to smack your head against the wall. And while most women are no strangers to these types of exchanges, one woman just called out exactly why these types of sales tactics that target new mothers can be especially problematic.
In an all-too-real post, 29-year-old mom of three and jewelry designer Kelly Diane Howland from Northern Indiana, described how she had been out shopping at Target with her 2½-week-old daughter when an older woman approached and began asking questions about her baby.
At first, Howland didn’t think much of the woman’s conversation. That is, until she dropped The Question — asking Howland if she had ever heard of a skincare and nutrition company that offers everything from cleanses to shakes to fitness apparel.
Howland goes on to explain in her post why it was so disheartening to be asked this. Mainly, it made her feel targeted as a new mom. After all, the question implies that she would be looking to lose weight after having her baby; it implies that new moms are supposed to feel ashamed about their bodies and desperate to try anything — even when it comes recommended by a total stranger you just met in Target while out for some “me time”.
Howland was very careful to point out that it’s not the company, or the woman, or even the work that is problematic. It’s the bigger message that this sends about how our culture wants women to feel like a failure for not immediately dropping the weight post-baby.
“Let’s not pretend that approaching me specifically was a coincidence,” Howland wrote. “Because it’s not like she ran up to every female at Target to hand out her card. But she did come to me – with my baby billboard of being brand new postpartum. We all know that this culture hammers into postpartum women a lot of physical insecurity about their bodies after delivering their miracles from their wombs. I don’t think I have to spell out for a single woman the cultural pressure that postpartum mothers face regarding their physical appearance. We know. We all know. She knew. And that’s why she approached me.”
After snapping a selfie in that very moment, Howland posted her message to her Facebook page where it garnered over 10,000 shares and many comments from women who applaud her standing up to a culture that fails to support women in the most basic manner after birth.
Howland says her inbox has been inundated with messages from women who are sharing their own stories of being made to feel like they are not enough, simply for the way their bodies look.
“I have so many message requests in my Facebook messenger folders of women who are privately writing to me to tell me their stories of feeling insecure, of being made to not feel good enough, of feeling pressure or being approached by people with ideas that they should change, or improve themselves, or could be better than they are currently,” Howland tells Babble.
And the new mom pointed out to that even an “innocent” sales pitch from someone just trying to make a living can have a lasting impact on a new mother who might be struggling with body image issues or postpartum depression.
It’s awful when you think about it; no one knows the fragile mental state any mom might be in. Howland admits she, too, has struggled with body image issues after going through college as a size 2 and now being “plus size.” She notes that it’s taken a lot of personal development and growth in the past two years as a mom to become more body positive.
“Motherhood is amazing and the female body’s ability to carry and birth babies is incredible and yet our culture is somehow obsessed with trying to erase any evidence of that on our frame and when I sat and pondered that… I was baffled. It didn’t make sense. It practically seemed absurd. I decided I no longer bought into that. These days I really love my body and try to honor and cherish her for all she does for me on a daily basis, even if she isn’t ‘perfect.'”
I, for one, am glad Howland is speaking up for every mom who has ever felt like she’s not enough (and for every mom who wants to cruise Target without being the target of a sales pitch for a body that’s just fine the way it is, thank you very much).