The Better Bombshell

Inspired loosely by this article in the NY Times, we asked guest blogger Sara Loewen to write about motherhood.  Keep reading for her thoughts on envy, corn dogs for dinner, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

I’m a bit reluctant to write under the title of “momshell – a smart sexy mother.” I certainly don’t feel like a sex symbol. I haven’t lost the baby weight, though my “baby” turns 3 next month. I wear mainly running shoes and jumping makes me pee. I have not found a way to balance my full time job with full time parenting, and what little writing time I have is generally overshadowed by guilt over rushed kindergarten drop offs. This week I taught a writing class without noticing that my shirt was on backwards. This morning I only finished four minutes of the workout DVD because my two-year-old would not stop climbing on my back and I was afraid he would crash face-first into one of my hand weights.

None of these details evoke Marilyn Monroe or Jean Harlow or pin up girls to me. So why am I here?

When I look at the photos for the back of The Better Bombshell book, I’m jealous. When I tried to take a head shot for a writing conference, this was the best photo. I can’t use it, but this one at least hides the bra fat.

If the concept of this blog is improving the image of bombshells, redefining them as sexy and smart, I’m not sure I qualify. The natural reaction to this new kind of bombshell, of course, is envy.

Envy is something I’d like to have less of. If I once thought of myself as smart and sexy, I have traded that for seeing myself as a good mom who’s generally overtired and content. The only thing that gets in the way of my contentment is my jealousy of women who are thinner, younger, freer, more productive, more organized, and generally more successful than I am.

I think envy fuels too many of the judgments lobbed over the divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms, and women with children versus women who choose not to have kids.

If having children has taught me anything, it’s to let go of judgment. Go on, moms: nurse him until he’s three feet tall; co-sleep in one room while your husband co-sleeps in a different room; slip the little guy Benadryl before the flight; select “Play All” on that disc of Dora episodes. I will not judge you. Or if I do, it will be silently and only for a minute. Then I’ll take another look at the things I do to get by when my husband is out of town for a month—corndogs for dinner, caving in to before-breakfast cartoons—and I remember: To each her own. Though I do judge the Duggars. And Dr. Sears, just a little, for never mentioning that on-demand, 24-hour nursing will not lead to a baby who sleeps through the night.

Done with the judgment, however, I still find it much harder to get over jealousy toward bombshell women. I think it’s because jealousy sometimes gets mixed up with self-judgment and sadness. I’m reminded of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem about mourning youth and being desired:

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more.

We all like feeling desirable. Yet what woman juggling a career and household while raising a family has the energy to maintain bombshell status (which Angela Eloise Smalley defined on this blog as being “strikingly beautiful and sexually desirable”)? I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’s probably easier if you have lots of money for nannies and housekeepers, and frankly, I’d settle for getting enough sleep to regain my own sexual desire.

I foolishly followed a Pinterest link the other day—to the blog of a tiny, pretty blond sharing tips for fitting into skinny jeans again after having a baby.

Her advice: “MOMS, DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!!!!” (Those extra exclamation points are hers.)

I fumed over that for days, considering all the things I’ve given up on—long stretches of quiet, pooping without interruption, staying out late, sleeping in late, going for a run whenever I feel like it, a clothing budget that isn’t divided by 4, a house that stays clean for more than a day, hangovers being kind of funny.

Isn’t giving up on yourself a requirement of motherhood, at least temporarily? While there is a second human growing inside you, you have literally given your body over to another human being. And then there are years of demands and needs—consuming, exhausting, wonderful years, because you are adored and depended upon, and it all passes too quickly to savor more than a moment here and there. Some day I’ll get back to myself—maybe all day, all week, for years.

Art by Siolo Thompson

Until then, I say—give up on yourself. As in, go easy on yourself. Give up on the younger, perhaps thinner, self-focused woman you once were, without holding it against all lovely women continuing to achieve “bombshell” status. Don’t buy the US Magazine issue devoted to actress-mothers getting their figures back, but don’t waste your time envying those actresses, or that woman in a French maid costume at your last Halloween party, or the classmate posting sunbathing self-portraits from wine tasting weekends.

Give up comparing yourself to those women, to single women, other moms, bombshells, and even to your old self. Be my version of a momshell – happily centered amidst the chaos of kids, pets, meals, work, marriage, aging—grateful for this desirable, beautiful life.


Sara Loewen has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She and her family commercial fish for salmon each summer. Winters, she teaches at Kodiak College. Her essay collection, Gaining Daylight, is forthcoming from the University of Alaska Press in February 2013. Her writing has appeared as a column for the Anchorage Daily News and in a variety of literary journals.

Just finding us?  This blog is a part of The Better Bombshella book project that asks writers and artists to redefine the female role model.  

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