While celebrating the Fourth of July on vacation with her family, TV host Kristin Cavallari inadvertently opened herself up to an onslaught of criticism. The fit, 29-year-old mom of three has been very vocal about preparing organic meals for her family. She explains in her book, Balancing in Heels, that she has “become a psycho about reading every single ingredient label and researching the ingredients I don’t recognize.” I have to admit to doing the same as a new mom.
So when Cavallari posted a photo to her Instagram account of her two sons and husband splashing about at the beach (below), she was clearly shocked and offended when commenters accused her of malnourishing her kids. “Seeing pictures of your boys and how they look is a bit shocking to see!,” one commenter said. “I know you cook healthy but to see the bones just doesn’t seem normal, sorry!” Another said, “I understand you live a very strict dietary lifestyle but these children are very obviously nutritionally deficient.” And while the post now has over 900 comments, many of them positive, the nasty remarks of strangers clearly got to the healthy-living mama bear of three. She later commented a sarcastic, “Yep, I starve my children,” going on to say that she had blocked all the haters.
As the mom of a little girl whose weight has been criticized since birth, I totally get it. And I’m outraged for Kristin and any mom who has to field rude comments and questions about her parenting choices. These days it feels like moms are under constant scrutiny from everyone, especially people who don’t even know us. And I have to ask, why?
When I was 7-months-pregnant with my first child, at 5’7″ with a long torso and luck of whatever kind, I was barely showing. I was accused of being “preggerexic,” talked about behind my back and to my face. People who knew I was pregnant but weren’t friends asked, “Is something wrong with the baby?” A friend, I was later told, was telling tons of mutual friends and acquaintances that I was starving my baby. No matter to them that I was dealing with a high-risk pregnancy and under close, weekly supervision of a team of specialists. My baby was gaining weight right on target and I just happened to not show much. But rest assured by Week 36 when I had “popped,” I was badgered constantly with questions about whether I was carrying twins or if I had gained “too much.” I was mortified and sad about the whole ordeal, but mostly nervous that I was bringing a little girl into this world so full of stranger’s criticism.
Sure enough, when my daughter was born at nine pounds, the questions continued. “What a massive newborn! Are you feeding her too much?” soon shifted once my healthy babe started sleeping in longer stretches and, again under doctor supervision, neutralized. At 4-months-old she was still in 0-3 month clothing and the comments kicked into over-drive. Are you starving her? It’s time to supplement with formula. Try rice cereal in a bottle. Wake her up at night and shove a boob in her mouth. My kid was fine. Better than fine. She was normal and healthy and just happened to be petite. I was so sick of the endless criticism, I started lying about her age when strangers asked me in public. If she was 7-months-old and looked 4, I’d tell them 5. That seemed to work. For the moment.
And then we started solids while still breastfeeding. My now-toddler, who recently weened herself from the breast at 18-months-old, is considered chunky. Frankly, I’ve seen chunkier, and it would never dawn on me to comment on another kid’s size. But in the 75th percentile for weight and 50th for height as of her last check-up, the girl’s got some yummy rolls on her. No big deal, right? Oh, but it is.
These days, it feels like I can’t get through a grocery store run, a daycare drop-off, or even a bathing suit-clad Instagram post of my own, without a slew of comments on my toddler’s size. What are you feeding her? It’s time to lose the breastfeeding. Aren’t you worried about diabetes? She’s clearly drinking juice, not water. I’ve even had another mom walk up to me in front of her own children and tell me that my daughter was “too fat” for the outfit I had her in.
Really? WTF is this world coming to, I want to know. There are so many kids out there who are not fortunate enough to be in loving homes with parents who, like me, and like you, are doing their best to create a healthy environment. Sure, my daughter has a sweet treat sometimes and yes, she breastfed a little longer than the average baby. But you know what? That’s my business, and my husband’s, not yours. If our pediatrician had a problem with my daughter’s weight, that would be something for us to discuss with him, privately. If you are a random person at the supermarket or, worse, a rude Instagram commenter, just get out of my life and focus on your own kids.
It infuriates me that Kristin Cavallari should have to field those types of rude comments at all, but I love that she was able to face the critics with sarcasm and the social media version of a slap on the face: the infamous “block.” And while I can’t walk around my town blocking everyone who stares too long at my toddler’s juicy thighs, sarcasm is a tactic just this side of bitchy that I intend to use from now on.
For months I went the meek route and responded with a, “No, she’s fine” before scurrying off to shelter my daughter from the critics. More recently I’ve turned into a ferocious monster who declares, “This little girl is going to face plenty of society-induced negative feelings about her body image in the future and I’d appreciate it if you not start it now.” But the truth is, anyone rude and self-righteous enough to criticize a fellow parent for their child’s size is not going to learn anything from my diatribes. I’d rather not waste my breath so I’ll be keeping it short and not-so-sweet from now on with a simple, “Yup, I feed her too much! Thanks for noticing.”
It might be just the type of verbal bitch-slap they need to shut up the next time they encounter a chubby (or skinny!) kid. If not, at least it’ll feel good saying it. In the meantime, I’m not going to stop posting photos of my sweet girl in her bathing suit and I sure hope Kristin Cavallari doesn’t either. All moms have the right to share photos of our kids, of whom we are so proud, without worrying that some random stranger is going to criticize their shape or size — or our parenting.