When you are promoting a new company or a new book, you tend to fall back on sound bites so you sound on point in every interview, not just one. One you have likely heard before if you’ve ever seen me on TV or read a media interview about Chairman Mom’s vision of rebranding working motherhood as just what it is—completely badass—you have probably heard me say a version of the following:
“Why is it that we think it’s brave when someone quits their six-figure job to start a company, knowing the odds at which startups fail, or we think it’s baller and hardcore when someone decides to run a 100-mile ultra marathon despite the toll it takes on the human body, and yet, when a woman dares to have a career and raise a child, she’s told not to even try and that she’ll just fail?
Yes, balancing a child and a career is hard. But so are other things we applaud in culture as worth doing precisely because they are so hard and the odds will be stacked against you.”
Here’s the shorter version of the same idea: “We’ve been talked into believing that the most almost-superhuman thing the human body can do is somehow a ‘weakness.’ If men gave birth, it would be live-streamed and sponsored by Mountain Dew.”
Finally, some data backs up my sound bites. Earlier this month, CNN reported that the two groups that reach “the peak of human endurance” are extreme athletes and pregnant women. From the piece: “The average person can burn up to 4,000 calories—a limit a group of scientists consider the peak of human performance—before depleting the body’s energy stores….
Longer pushes require lower intensities, but over a short period of time, the human body can successfully exert 4,000 calories on average before hitting the wall. That’s 2.5 times the basal metabolic rate, or amount of calories a body needs to operate while at rest. The average person won’t reach those limits in a typical workout (except maybe Crossfit, Pontzer noted), but pregnant women and extreme athletes cut it close. Weeklong races and nine-month pregnancies similarly push the body to its limits, often burning calories at a rate the body can’t keep up with.”
This shouldn’t be a shock. You burn an extra 300 calories a day just growing a baby, and an extra 600 calories a day nursing one. And while you might burn that much doing a SoulCycle or an OrangeTheory Fitness class, you are frequently encouraged to take a day off and recover. There’s no such thing in pregnancy. And then there’s labor and delivery. When I gave birth to Eli I had to push for five hours. Every single muscle in my body was so depleted I couldn’t open or close my hands at the end of it. I work out a lot, and I’ve never experienced anything remotely like that level of full-body muscle fatigue before.
It’s almost like we’re all just badasses who let the world tell us we were weak…
The endurance aspect of this peak performance is particularly interesting and it’s one of the ways I think being pregnant prepares you to mother. You have to physically learn to make space for a child in your body and your life. You have to learn to breathe through extreme pain and discomfort. You have to learn how to keep going because in most cases, pregnancy isn’t something you can quit on, and your kids won’t be either. It’s like a mothering bootcamp.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom: