Why Are Dad Bods All The Rage But Mom Bods Are Vilified?

You’ve probably seen the phrase “dad bod” under a picture of a hot though slightly pudgy celeb on social media lately. The term has become synonymous with sex appeal, and like it or not, there are polls to back it up. It would make sense, then, that the “mom bod” would have similar connotations. After all, they do the work of actually creating a baby. But sadly, the “mom bod” is far from celebrated. Here’s why the terms are treated so differently.

  1. “Dad bod” reinforces outdated stereotypes about fatherhood. The dad bod is sexy, polls tell us, because it suggests an easy-going nature and enjoyment of the good things in life. It hints that the guy might choose to spend his free time with his kids instead of building abs in the gym, and sadly, that’s enough to give us butterflies. Even the bare minimum of fatherly engagement is prize-worthy in our society.
  2. Women’s bodies are celebrated for “bouncing back,” not reflecting motherhood. In contrast to the celebration of the dad bod, society focuses its praise on how quickly mothers can revert to their pre-baby bodies. Not only is this a double standard, but it’s also literally impossible. Carrying a small person inside you for nine months and then pushing it out of you causes permanent change. The mom bod is not an option.
  3. Everyone wants women to become mothers… until they do. From the moment a woman hits her mid-twenties, everyone wants to know when they’re getting pregnant. Just ask Jennifer Aniston. Tabloids have been speculating about her childlessness for literal decades. Women who decide not to have kids are viewed as selfish, deviant, or even sociopathic. But as soon as a woman gives birth, her motherhood is viewed as a liability by potential partners.
  4. Dad bods are non-threatening. There’s something sweet about a dad bod. They signify self-confidence without narcissism and maybe even a laid-back temperament, both of which are attractive qualities. In contrast, the mom bod might be viewed as a threat because it defies the impossible physical standards society places on women. Mom bods are a victory for those of us who want to just live our lives and a failure for a sexist society that wants to control every aspect of our appearance.
  5. Notions of physical attractiveness are intrinsically tied to notions of effort. Because the mom bod is inevitable, resisting it (however impossible that may be) supposedly demonstrates determination, willpower, and discipline. This overlooks the fact that, again, pregnancy changes your body permanently and no amount of effort will change that.
  6. The post-baby transformation is obsessed over, even though its key ingredient is unattainable for most women. Women who do manage to make an astounding transformation after childbirth are viewed as an inspiration to other mothers. But this overlooks the fact that these women have the money and time to afford full-time nannies, personal trainers, dieticians, and plastic surgeons. Such resources are simply not attainable for most women and should not be seen as aspirational.
  7. Society is uncomfortable with the idea that women’s bodies might not exist solely for male pleasure. From an early age, girls are taught that attractiveness is based on male desire. Makeup, clothes, and perfume are all marketed on the promise that if we wear them, men will be unable to resist us. The mom bod is evidence that a woman has other priorities–in this case, motherhood. It’s no surprise that this would be off-putting for the segment of the population that has expected women to tailor their appearances for the hungry male gaze.
  8. We’ll always find reasons to criticize women’s choices. No matter what women choose—to have a baby or to stay childless, to get married or stay single—there will be criticism. Childless women are the subject of pregnancy speculation for decades, while studies show that once a woman has a child, her earning potential plummets and does not rebound. The mom bod is not objectively less attractive than the dad bod, it’s just that women are rarely celebrated for the choices they make, especially when it comes to bearing children.
  9. Maybe we should question why the dad bod is so appealing. Is the dad bod actually attractive, or have we just gotten over our obsession with the bad boy fetish? The celebration of softer bodies that carry a friendlier vibe and maybe even a promise of dad jokes may just be a long-awaited counterbalance to the obsession some women have with guys who are dangerous, mean, and undeniably sexy. If this is the case, let’s keep celebrating the dad bod!
  10. In an ideal world, neither “dad bod” nor “mom bod” would exist. Parents come in all shapes and sizes, just like everyone else does. Attaching a definitive body type to moms or dads is arbitrary at best and body shaming at worst. Unless ‘dad bod’ and ‘mom bod’ mean ‘the body of literally anyone who is a parent’ then the terms should be abandoned. We should be able to celebrate parenthood and physical attraction in their own right.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.