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Britney and Life after Childbirth

Events in Britney Spears' life move at the speed of greased lightning. No sooner had her husband Kevin Federline revealed that she had regained her pre-pregnancy weight two weeks after the birth of their last son born in September, than she announced their divorce for 'irreconcilable reasons'. It appears only yesterday (and in fact it was the day before) when Kevin complained about not being able to lose the 'sympathy weight' he had put on during her pregnancy by eating extra junk food so she wouldn't feel bad about bloating up by being pregnant. Kevin's intentions may have been noble, but this was obviously not enough to protect him from the iron-clad provisions of Britney's pre-nuptial agreement, which protects her hard-earned money from his covetous gaze. Whatever Britney and Kevin's story later turns out to be, a part of it is certainly about one of the most dangerous things we are acquiring in the fascination with Western role models in today's globalized world.

What Britney and Kevin are passing on with the open discussion of their respective weights before and after having children, is a negative self-image that rests solely on body shape, or a dangerous body-image if you so prefer. A conversation overheard between a woman in a gym in Chennai and her personal trainer, to whom she was complaining about being a few pounds heavier than before the birth of her two month old baby, set me thinking. Wasn't she breast feeding? What did a few pounds matter when it came to the question of a baby? She looked and seemed pretty slim, so why the obsession with losing weight? Her trainer was obviously non-plussed at how to explain the whole motherhood and maternal responsibility to her when the sole preoccupation she had in her life was losing weight. Caring for another human being in the way we do as mothers is supposed to bring us close to both, our inner strength, and our limitations.

It completes a significant phase in the development of our ego, giving us the humility and the self-acceptance we need to become fully human. Parenting, whether it is as fathers or as mothers, is an important factor in self-esteem. The kind of anxiety being felt by the lady in the gym caused me genuine distress for a while. Didn't the fact that she had produced a marvelous 'bundle of joy' mean anything to the young woman? Why was her self-esteem so low as to sink several notches with just a few more ounces of weight? Without meaning to, I felt myself thinking of all the childless women and men who would gladly look a little less beautiful if they could instead have a child to hold in their arms. If Britney has recovered her pre-pregnancy weight in two weeks, good for her. If Malaika Arora has a flat tummy in addition to a small and active son, great news.

No one denies these women their looks or fame. What is sad is that in the glam-sham culture we live in today, we seem to have forgotten other ideals of femininity and motherhood. So while we rave about 'Lage Raho Munnabhai's Mahatma Gandhi, isn't it time to ask ourselves, what about Kasturba?.

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