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By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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What's Your Excuse?

Uploaded: Oct 17, 2013
By now, you may have heard about the Sacramento mom who posted a photo of her toned body with her three kids and the phrase "What's your excuse?" As a marathon runner, I understand the desire to stay fit and challenge your body; however, I take offense at her message.  Why am I not as fit as I was pre-baby?  Why has my fitness routine changed from 12 mile runs to 30 minute workouts?  Because, shockingly, my priorities have changed!

I applaud new mothers who are focused on staying healthy so they can chase after their kids on Saturday afternoons.  And more importantly, so they can be around to see their kids grow up.  But I would say that my excuse for no longer being marathon ready is that I want to spend Saturdays with my son rather than on the road.  
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Betty, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Sorry but the same traditional gender roles you promote in this blog are responsive for the objectification that you deride. The identity of "wife" (which I note is your first identity in your bio) is archaic. It is a role that values women for their sexual relation to the male head of household. You can hardly claim the self- erasing status of "wife" for your identity and write a parenting blog in which has no sign of a shared parenting role with your husband and then decry the sexual objectification of women. Your objection seems to be that this other m isn't sufficiently devoted to her kids because she takes the time to work out. She's making manifest what being a "wife" really entails.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Betty- Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. My issue is with her message "what's your excuse?" There are many reasons why women's bodies do not look the way they did pre pregnancy, some of which are outside a woman's control. Furthermore, I would much rather spend my time at the park playing with my son than doing burpees and jumping rope.

If you keep reading my blog, you will see that my husband has a large parenting role. And being in my first few years of marriage, wouldn't it be strange if I didn't list "wife" as one of my first identities?

Posted by ndnorth, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm

My excuse would be I guess that my cancer medecines do a number of my body. But why on earth should I be responding to some self righteous queen? Who is she to demand an answer?
It's none of her business the why of mt life.

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Ndnorth - Thank you so much for sharing one of the reasons that is completely outside of our control.  I hope that you are on the road to recovery.  Thank you for reading and commenting.

Posted by Betty, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

No it would not be strange at all. "Wife" is as I said an archaic identity. How about "I am a mother of a one year old with a partner who works in xx" ? Self description as you put it: "I am a wife" is different than I have been married for 4 years. Getting married is an activity and I am a wife is an identity. I challenge he you to find aan who lists "husband" as a primary identity. It's really not consistent with the fact that it's 2013 and I would go with stay home mom and delete wife unless you want to send the message with women's value and identity is derived fr their sexual and financial dependency relations to men.

In terms of exercise, the self abnegation you are advocating is unhealthy. Are you really intending to say that after spending all day all week with your son you can't miss 2 hours while he spends time with dad and you go to the gym for an hour in the evening or a few hours on Saturday? You can't mean that and if you do you should think it over. Being a good m does not mean stopping taking care of yourself. Paying attention to your toddler does not mean being afraid of missing any minute to the extent that you stop running or exercising or having time to yourself.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

As I talked about in "My Coworkers" post, I think it's great when mothers can take some time for themselves while their husbands, friends, babysitters, or nannies watch their children. We all need breaks.

And as I talked about in this post, I do take time to exercise. I do it to stay healthy.

The problem I have is with her message. No need to make new mothers, or any mothers, feel guilty about their post-pregnancy bodies. Exercise wont "fix" everything.

Finally, I listed many identities. I think in 2013 it is great for a woman to be proud of the many identities she has.

Posted by marianna, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

My EXCUSE is that I am not narcissistic and convinced that my self worth is enveloped in the way I look. Just look at her FB self photos in tiny outfits to judge for yourself,

Posted by I\'m with Betty, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Cheryl, I think Betty has a point. And I think you were pretty quick to jump on the bandwagon against the mom in Sac who just posted a picture to her own personal facebook page. It\'s not like she sent you an email criticizing you personally so no need to criticize her. I think there is a gym called "no excuses" in Palo Alto (Web Link Are you upset with them because they said "no excuses"? Isn\'t that just an expression? Aren\'t you taking this kind of seriously?

Betty is making a more interesting point, about your statement that you "want to spend Saturdays with my son rather than on the road" running and that you "would much rather spend my time at the park playing with my son than doing burpees and jumping rope." You are stating it as if it is either/or, but it\'s not. You can obviously run marathons (or halfs) in addition to having a one year old, and I think that is Betty\'s point. Why not treat the Sacramento mom as an inspiration -- if she can do it with 3, maybe we can all be a little bit fitter.

You need to think through your arguments a little better, honestly. It does seem like you might be a little bit obsessed if you think that it takes too much time away from your tot to go to the gym or run.

And I also have to agree with Betty that "wife" sounds pretty old-fashioned.

Posted by Another Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I think we should cut Cheryl a break here, but the conversation is interesting. Growing up we didn't have "stay-at-home" mom in the vocabulary, it was "housewife." I expect the term was created by someone to differentiate from "career mom" or whatever. So yes language is powerful -- Cheryl could choose just to say "housewife" which covers her status as "wife" as well as "stay-at-home mom," yet no one uses this term anymore, as it doesn't have the inherent status connotations of the other terms. But Cheryl's a young mom and I wish her the best and the blog is generating some good discussion.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

 Marianna - Thank you for reading my blog and commenting.  I agree, if her message was intended to get mothers exercising, then why not show a mom actually exercising rather than posing in workout gear?

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

I'm with Betty - Thank you for checking out my blog and sharing your opinions. As I mentioned in the original post, I exercise half hour a day which I think is sufficient to stay healthy. Before I had my son I qualified and ran in the Boston Marathon.  I've run a total of 7 marathons, so I understand the time commitment that it takes to run one well.  Of course it would be possible to train for a marathon with a toddler at home.  However, at the moment, I don't have the 20+ hours a week that it would require.  I have other priorities at the moment.  

But the point of my post was more general.  While I personally consider fitness to be an extremely important part of my life, I appreciate the fact that different women have different priorities both prior to and after having children.  Additionally, not all women are able to get their pre-pregnancy figures back because of genetic and medical reasons, regardless of how much they exercise.  One offensive part of Maria's ad was the assumption that people who do not look like her post-pregnancy are just coming up with excuses.  

Furthermore, the photo was not posted on a personal Facebook page, but rather a business page that happened to be on Facebook. I think it's a fair game to discuss, and even criticize, promotional messages, including ads.

I mentioned wanting to play with my son at the park rather than do lunges not because I don't think exercise is important (as a marathon runner, I clearly do).  Rather, as a response to her comment " I?m also not missing anything when I?m taking them to the park and performing lunges, burpees or jumping rope while watching them play" (http://www.mariakang.com/2012/10/15/maria-kangs-facs-frequently-asked-comments/).  When I go to the park with my toddler, I prefer to run around and play with him.  

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Another Mom-  Thank you for the support!  In my life, "stay-at-home mom" and "wife" both have very positive connotations.  It's interesting to raise a kid when we have so many options available to us: staying home, working part-time, working full time, working from home, etc. Thank you again for being a reader and commenting.

Posted by I'm with Betty, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I agree with another Mom, the convo is interesting, but unfortunately it is more interesting than the blog itself and I have to say that Cheryl doesn't seem to really understand the points that are being discussed by readers. That's too bad, but as another Mom says, she's young.

Cheryl, your issue with the Sac mom seems honestly like a non-issue. The real question I have is why you aren't taking more time for yourself than only a half hour per day. What about on the weekends. Even if you conceive that your "job" is raising your son, without much participating from your husband/partner reflected in these posts, at some point in the evening and on the weekends he comes home and that should be your cue to get out and do something for yourself. Since running seemed to be your thing pre-baby it seems a little bit odd that you are defending giving it up, and making snarky and judgmental comments about a mom who chose to continue her regime. You are supposedly happy with your choice so why the judgment of her?

That's just my reaction.

I think you should reconsider the "housewife" thing. What message are you sending for young women/girls?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I'm curious as to why the thought that wife is just in relation to male *as head of household* & is claimed by the obviously intelligent Betty as "a role that values women for their sexual relation to the male head of household." It's not that I'm unaware as the archaic meanings of the term, as well as the more limiting modern ones, but currently, I don't think of "wife" as a term that denotes what Betty says it does. I'm also a wife - I'm married. I'd describe some of my responsibilities as more chaotic than archaic!

Also - I'm With Betty - how do you know Cheryl only takes a half hour to take care of herself? I read that as she has shorter workouts - which aren't the totality of taking care of herself.

And what's wrong w/the term housewife? Is this 1973 when there wasn't much flexibility to what that term actually meant? And even if Cheryl is living her life as if she's a housewife in 1972, if it's a choice she's happy with, what is wrong w/that - aside from all that shag carpet & the avocado & earth tones?

I'm happy w/my life & my judgement of Sac mom isn't about how she looks or spends her time - it's that confrontational, in your face style. Sheesh - I don't think of her as an inspiration, but I think it's great that others do. We could just as easily criticize Sac mom for overly identifying w/being a mom rather than an athlete. But why would we do that? I think that Cheryl used an interesting topic for her column, but do we need to pick it all to pieces? Cheryl hasn't picked apart Sac mom, just used it as a springboard for a differing point of view, one that has changed since becoming a mom. This is all powerful stuff - how our roles change, shift, evolve, how kids impact our lives - or not having kids, as in my case - so of course it's worth discussion. But I interpret Cheryl's column as she's excited by the new changes & challenges in her life - after having been an athlete & getting her education.

I guess that bottom line is that for Cheryl - & for me, Sac mom's style isn't inviting to us, & Cheryl has found something that works well for her, which reflects how her life has changed. It doesn't mean that she's not taking care of herself in order to take care of her family. I hope that Sac mom is also happy, & that what she's doing is right for herself & her family. This attempt to balance it all obviously varies from person to person & family to family.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Hmmm - Thank you!  I appreciate the support.  I hope that you will continue to follow my blog and comment.  Thank you for your well-worded reply.  It's clear that you understood my points.  Great point about your responsibilities being more chaotic than archaic.  

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

I'm with Betty - Just because I am young and I don't agree with some of the comments that my readers make doesn't mean that I don't understand them.

I said that I spend 30 minutes working out, not 30 minutes for myself (as Hmmm also noted). There is a big difference.  Please don't misquote me.

As I mentioned before, my husband spends ample time with my son and he is very present. However that was not the point of my blog post, which is why I didn't talk about him.  I will talk more about our shared parenting in a later post.  Please keep your comments on topic.

My previous comment thoroughly explains my issues with the ad and why I am no longer actively training for a marathon.  

Furthermore, why such a negative attitude about my choice to stay home?  If you can accept the fact that a woman wants to prioritize exercise then why can't you accept the fact that other women might have different priorities?

Posted by I\'m with Betty, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 8:11 am

I\'m not negative about your decision to stay home. I\'m a stay-home mom myself, or I was when my kids were at home. I\'m a bit uncomfortable with the way you chastised Sac mom because she was somehow less dedicated to her kids than you are -- you claimed to be feeling criticized by a random stranger who posted to her own facebook page and then you lashed out at her because when you are at the park, you are engaged in superior parenting becasue she is jumping rope and you are playing with your baby. I haven\'t seen too many 1 year olds playing independently in parks, but she has three kids and maybe you can be less judgmental of her. The whole post has kind of a through the looking glass feel since you are accusing her of criticizing other moms, even though she didn\'t, meanwhile using it as the change to take swipes at her.

I still agree with Betty that "wife" is just not an identity that makes sense in 2013, nor housewife. Why not just say I am a married mother of a 1 year old. Before my son was born I earned a PhD in social psych at [school?] and ran marathons. I [hope to have other kids? go to work eventually? return to running?] as he gets older.

And I think the fact that you are writing a parenting blog that never ever mentions your husband even to the degree of describing making joint decisions about how scheduled your child will be is odd. He has yet to make any appearance in any of these columns even as a bit player and that is also odd in 2013.

If you only want 100% supportive comments and no constructive feedback at all, you shouldn\'t write about your life in public. Not everyone will agree with what you are writing. The publisher/editor should have warned you. Is the right response really to claim that it\'s "off topic"? People are telling you that the conversation is interesting. The only reason we have that interesting converstation is because everyone isn\'t just being your unconditional "mommy friend" but is trying to make a silk purse here.

There are many interesting issues raised by parenting in SV in 2013. You should look into them.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 10:05 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Hmmm, Another Mom, Marianna and NdNorth - thank you again for checking out my blog and for taking the time to comment.  The conversation went off topic, so I thought I would redirect it again.

Fellow Readers - How are the mothers in your circles reacting to Maria Kang's ad?  How do you think she could have changed it to me more inspirational to more women?  I enjoy reading "your excuses," please keep them coming.

A friend sent me this link, which I found quite enjoyable to check out. Where mothers give their "excuses:" http://www.divinesecretsofadomesticdiva.com/2013/10/17/heres-my-excuse-and-a-bunch-of-others-too-since-you-asked-maria-kang/

I'm with Betty - When you write, "I think you should reconsider the 'housewife' thing. What message are you sending for young women/girls?" It sounds pretty negative to me (and I use "wife" not "housewife" in my description).  I am not changing my description.  It was never the topic of this post (which is why I asked you to stay on topic).  By staying on topic, I can address new reader's comments and concerns about the post itself. 

And, as I already mention in my description, this is a blog about "motherhood." Therefore, as a woman with my own voice, I chose not to focus on my husband in the first few posts. This is a blog about parenting from my perspective.  While my husband is involved the parenting process, he does not want to be involved in the blogging about parenting process.  

Furthermore, I invite constructive criticism.  If you comment, you should do the same.  When you misquote me or do not read the content correctly, I am going to address you (for instance, as I said in a prior comment to you, Maria's ad was not posted on a personal Facebook page).  

Yes, there are many interesting topics for moms to discuss.  If you believe my chosen topics are uninteresting or a non-issue, you can read some of the other wonderful blogs on this site. 

Posted by Betty , a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Your blog focuses on promoting traditional gender roles. Critiquing that is "on topic." You want a conversation about Maria Kang? Ok here you go: your perspective on her is superficial and judge mental. Her Facebook post is not consequential. What does it say about you that what you chose to do with that was to talk about how you are a better mother than Kang because you have better "priorities." It's not either or and sure she's just as good of a mother as you are. The "I'm a better mom because I ..." Is a very unappealing approach. As to your bio, as another poster said wife, housewife, same thing.

Thank you for clarifying that your husband does not want to be blogged about. However that fact makes it impossible for you to write honestly about your parenting journey since you aren't actually making these decisions alone such as the scheduling one, or whether you have time to work out. Parenting is a 2 person job for those lucky enough to have a partner and you can't really describe that process honestly if you can't talk about that.

I don't think you want to discourage this discussion since without it there wouldn't be any at all and I agree with "I'm with" that you should be prepared for controversy if you are going to fire shots in the mommy wars.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Betty - You are repeatedly misquoting my post and comments:

None of my comments suggest that I am a better mother or have better priorities than Maria Kang.  In fact your last comment suggests that you agree with my point of view: different women have different priorities, and we should respect that. That was one of my main points in the post and a later comment.  Furthermore, my husband does not want to be involved in the blogging process.  This does not mean, as you misquoted, that he does not want to be blogged about. Rather, it suggests that this is a blog about motherhood and my personal experiences, and yes, some of those are traditional and some are not.

Posted by Betty, a resident of Community Center,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

You wrote "I take offense at her message. Why am I not as fit as I was pre-baby? Why has my fitness routine changed from 12 mile runs to 30 minute workouts? Because, shockingly, my priorities have changed!" Then you said that Kang is focusing on fitness, whereas you more nobly "would much rather spend my time at the park playing with my son than doing burpees and jumping rope." Then you expanded on this by saying that "Rather, as a response to her comment " I'm also not missing anything when I'm taking them to the park and performing lunges, burpees or jumping rope while watching them play" (Web Link When I go to the park with my toddler, I prefer to run around and play with him."

What you are saying is that you have better priorities than she does. Your choices are, in your view, better than hers. She goes to the park and jumps rope -- you think you are making a better choice (changed priorities) by playing with your son. You are criticizing her choices. When you do that, you are creating controversy and being provocative in order to generate some readership and comments. Presumably you know that.

The whole thing would be trivial except that you are promoting a very traditional gender-role lifestyle in which you aren't really even writing about parenting but about being a mommy with mommy friends and mommy brain. If anyone should display tolerance of other women's mothering choices and "priorities" it's you. Please do.

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:32 am

Cheryl Bac, don't worry about what "Betty" wrote. I thought her first post might be some kind of Onion-esque parody of excessively rigid PC parenting attitudes, but the subsequent posts apparently indicate that they were actually genuine.

Obviously, how anyone views their her role as a parent or spouse is completely her own business. Congratulations on becoming a mom and on embracing your new role as a parent. While a lot of "progressive" thinking regarding women's rights (and breastfeeding vs. forumula, home births vs. hospital births, etc.) has admirable origins, I can't understand why some people who embrace such views take things too far and become dogmatic zealots.

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

And I think the larger point Cheryl Bac touches upon in her original post is that being a new mother can be overwhelming, physically and emotionally, and there is no reason to make the experience even more difficult by trying to hold oneself to some perfectionist standard advocated by people like Sac Mom. People like Sac Mom tell new mothers they are not good enough if they do not breastfeed 100% of the time, have home births without an epidural or any assistance from modern medical technology...or run 10 miles on Saturdays right after they've given birth.

If someone has true empathy for new mothers, they should just shut up and let them be. Kudos to you if you live up to your own lofty ideal of what a mother should do, but a truly good mother will not try to make fellow moms feel inadequate.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Ridiculous - Thank you for being a reader and for your support (and great name, by the way).  I like your quote that "a truly good mother will not try to make fellow moms feel inadequate."  A friend of mine sent me a Huffington Post article about the debate: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peggy-drexler/-maria-kang-and-the-endle_b_4128516.html where they discuss the endless cycle of mommy judging. 

Thank you again for being a reader and for commenting.  I hope you continue to read and comment on my future posts.  

Fellow Readers: Ridiculous makes some great points about the pressures placed on new moms to be perfect.  I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about this.  (I know many readers probably won't read all the way down to this comment, so I will also keep it in mind for a future post).  What pressures to be perfect have you experienced as a parent? Do you think they have changed over the years?  How did you handle those pressures? 

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm

What's wrong w/traditional gender roles if it is satisfying for whoever is involved? And, traditional according to which tradition and whose interpretation? Seriously, this is just getting to be too weirdly ridiculous!

I am happy *not* to read about Chery's husband, and am not assuming he isn't involved. I'd guessed that it was a privacy issues for him, which is understandable.

I can't presume to know about how Sac mom deals w/the needs of so many people in her household, including her own. Maybe she's narcissistic, maybe she's not. Does she have a doctorate like Cheryl does, or did she spend previous years outside academia?

I like that, in response to Sac mom's somewhat in your face "What's Your Excuse", Cheryl pointed out that her time was organized differently & how her focus is changed now that she has a child. For all we know, Sac mom did the same w/her first child & then decided to do things differently after her 3rd kid. Does it matter? What matters to me, as a reader, is that both moms want to stay balanced in ways that matter to them. Sac mom's style of expression not being to my liking only means that there are as many ways to get a message across as there are ways to decided how to take care of ourselves. I think that there's room for all of these ways.

It's wonderful that moms now have more choices than they did, but having so many choices can also be stressful. I think that's also important to recognize.

Cheryl, I don't have kids, so my wisdom re childrearing is limited! I do have a lot of hands on experience w/children, but it's not the same as parenting. I have worked extensively w/moms who have had to focus on the right solutions for their managing so many responsibilities. I greatly admire people who move through major aspects of their lives and then shift into another major mode with its attendant roles. This is all part of the art of living well.

Posted by I am healthier than ever. , a resident of another community,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

It took me determination to loose 60+lbs after giving birth to my dd. I worked out for 30 minutes a day while she napped 4 times a week. I ate healthy and stayed active. It took me 5 months. But I am now healthier than ever. No excuses? I had plenty, but I chose Just motivation, we all excuses.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Hmmm - Thank you again for your support! And great point that although wonderful, the fact that there are so many choices available to women can be quite stressful. Luckily, as you also discussed, there are ways for us to manage these new and old responsibilities to find a fit that is right for us. I would love to hear more about your management techniques (either in your own life or with the moms you've helped).

It sounds like you have a wealth of knowledge about marriage, children and mothering (even without having children of your own). By the way, if you have experience working with or looking after multiple children at once, I'm working on a post on this topic. I look forward to hearing more of your opinions on future posts. Thanks for the great insights.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

I am healthier than ever - Congratulations. Losing over 60 pounds is a huge accomplishment. I'm glad that you found a way to incorporate healthy eating and fitness into your life. Am I correct that you found Maria Kang's ad inspirational?

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