Add another chapter to the book on mommy wars. This time, one woman — and her fabulous abs — stands at the center of the controversy.
By now we've all seen the photo. Last year, working mama Maria Kang posted a picture of herself with three kids — then three boys under three, the youngest eight months old — all decked out in adorable red and black.
And yeah, she was wearing hot pants and a work-out top, baring her six pack. No biggie, right? Except for the message scrawled across the top of the photo, one meant to incite comments (and perhaps rage?). "What's your excuse?" was the question the picture posed — and it has since gone viral, setting off a firestorm of angry comments, mostly from her fellow working moms.
While Kang's personal website reports that the feedback on the shot — used as the cover to her personal fitness guide — was 80 percent positive, the Facebook reaction, more than 16 million page views and thousands of comments — would suggest otherwise.
"How smug do you have to be to not even consider that other moms' reality/income/help/genes/metabolism/childcare needs/ work demands/love of bacon/need to have a six pack to feel worthy might be different than yours?"
"Ummm, the dog ate my gym shoes?"
"So what’s my excuse? What’s my excuse for what exactly? The excuse for why I’m still fat? My body looks the way it does because — shock and horror — I like my body. I love my stretch marks, I love my fat rolls, I love my cellulite. My body looks the way it does because I like it to look this way. I’m a great mother, regardless if my body looks ‘acceptable’ enough for society."
Along with comments like those came accusations that the picture was photo-shopped, that Kang — a former pageant queen who says she suffered from bulimia in her youth — had used a surrogate to bear her children, and, going for the jugular, that she was bad, neglectful mother. That, naturally, prompted Kang to issue a FAQ about her life, along with her "first and final" apology. Except, of course, it's so not.
"I'm sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way," Kang wrote on Facebook. "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. I won't even mention how I didn't give into cravings for ice cream, french fries or chocolate while pregnant, or use my growing belly as an excuse to be inactive. 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. You created them. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain. With that said, obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a 'bigger' issue than this photo. Maybe it's time we stop tip-toeing around people's feelings and get to the point. So What's Your Excuse?"
There are those who did take the photo as the wake-up call and challenge that Kang meant it to be.
"I love that your apology wasn't really an apology, because you shouldn't apologize," said one recent poster. "As a mother of only one one year old and an overweight woman almost all my life, I am inspired when I see you taking time for yourself and your body even with three boys. You made me ask myself... What IS my excuse? and I thank you for that."
But some of the comments were just as judgey as Kang's original post.
"How much of your valuable time, after all the blogging, debating, working, working out, facebooking etc, do your three very young children actually get?" asked one commentor, who posted before and after pics of her own weight loss. "You've a lot of dedication and that is admirable. But I just can't help but think of how much better it would be in these early years to take that time, effort and dedication and invest it into your children instead. I am a squishy, stay-at-home mum to a boy turned 3 last week and 16 month old daughter. There will be time to get back to a smaller size when they need me less, but the time with them young cannot wait... It is so valuable. I would far rather be overweight and confident I am giving my children the best of me, than sacrifice time with them and be a slimmer version of me as a result."
Ouch. Yup, more mom-bashing, either way. What's your take on the photo? Can't we all just get along?