"I might not ever look exactly how I did pre-babes, but that's okay – that's what armor-weight bras and tights and spanx are for."

By Amy Shearn
March 12, 2019
mom and toddler bed sharing
Credit: Albert Mollon/Getty Images

We hear a lot of talk in our culture about getting back into shape after baby. As a mother of two, I laugh ruefully at such talk, mumbling things like, "Round and kinda bumpy is a shape."

But it has recently come to my attention that my baby is, well, 2. As in years old. And that I haven't taken an exercise class since the super gentle You-Just-Had-A-Baby-A-Second-Ago mom-baby yoga class so many years ago.

And that I still hang out in my maternity yoga pants. I go out in public wearing them. I mean, not far. Just, like, to the library. But still. The maternity ones. I'm that mom.

I wore my maternity yoga pants upstairs (elevator up two floors, please) to visit my neighbor, who happens to conveniently enough be AnnaCatherine Rutledge, a Brooklyn personal trainer. She gave me some neighborly advice, along with a cupcake for her son's birthday (hey, we're moms).

AnnaCatherine told me that she finds first-time moms are often impatient to lose all the baby weight and get back into shape by the time their three-month maternity leave is up.

"Nobody (especially first-time moms) ever wants to hear 10 months up, 10 months down. Nobody ever wants to hear it's going to take time to get back your pre-baby body AND it may never go back to what it was before."

I nodded understandingly. Right, 10 months up, and um 24 months down? So far? OK, so maybe I haven't felt the urgency some moms feel. But I do want to do what AnnaCatherine suggests is the most important part of exercising as a mom, which is "showing the kids that fitness can be fun."

She got me thinking about my priorities when it comes to my body, which are:

1. Having a positive body image

Which is to say, modeling a positive body self-image for my daughter. Sample: "Yes, you're right, my tummy IS really squishy! Isn't it nice and soft?" – instead of the following conversation, which I would otherwise have at least once a day:

Friend Nice Enough to Lie: "You look cute today."

Me: "Are you stupid? Or blind? Or mocking me? I am so fat, ugh! Look at this! [grabbing handfuls of tummy] LOOK AT THIS!"

2. Getting into shape

By this I mean, being in good enough shape to chase after my Usain Bolt of a toddler, who literally screams "NEED RUN AROUND!" when he gets restless. We maintain a strict regiment of running, climbing, swinging and sliding.

On indoor days, we must jump up and down for 30 minutes straight at the absolute minimum, including a session before and after nap.

3. Fitting into my prepregnancy jeans

This is important to me because I dislike shopping.

4. Encouraging my family to have a healthy lifestyle

A challenge, this one, since I'm always tired, love feeding them convenient food, and have never been a big athlete. I walked by an elementary school gym class the other day and had a panic attack.

But never mind that. I try to encourage my kids to exercise in fun ways throughout the day, hoping against hope that bouncing on couch cushions to "Billie Jean" counts as cardio. I try to encourage healthy eating, by which I mean, not constantly consuming cookies.

In my gentle, non-celeb, non-office-attire world, this is enough. I might not ever look exactly how I did pre-babes, but that's okay – that's what armor-weight bras and tights and spanx are for. (OK, I don't actually have Spanx, but I know they exist.) But what I do need to make priorities are fitness, healthy choices, and having a good body image.

And the occasional cupcake with a neighbor. (Don't worry, I took the stairs back down.)