family

Dad strength? Is there a mom version?

My son spends a lot of time at the gym strength training, building muscles. He’s got a schedule, theories about nutrition, and a plan for spring. But he’s part of a young men’s gym culture that cares more about looks than about function, I’d say. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

That came home the other night when we were all carrying stuff from the house to a trailer to take it to our storage locker. Our house is going to be for sale soon and we’re moving out half the stuff. Don’t talk to me about staging. I’m annoyed and stressed.

Back to the carrying heavy household things…

My partner in parenting doesn’t lift weights. He’s in his fifties like me but he doesn’t go to the gym. So my son and I made a comment about being impressed with how easily he picked up stuff as he carried it out of the house. We’re talking big stuff like appliances and church pews. Family legends tell stories of him moving hot tubs, pianos, and dryers out of tight basement spaces.

My son said, yeah, that’s dad strength for you.

What’s dad strength, I asked.

Just check out his forearms. You get forearms like that from actually doing stuff, not from lifting weights at the gym. He’s got muscular hands and lots of grip strength.

And it’s true Jeff does a lot around the house. He does home renos, builds things, and lifts household objects. He also works on his boat. Last summer he hauled the motor with Sarah and the two of them worked on rebuilding it. That’s demanding too.

So the contrast seems to be between gym strength (bicep curls, bench press, etc) and dad strength (firm grip and strong forearms). I get it.

But it also got me wondering if there’s a mom equivalent, a contrast between gym fit and mom fit? (I’ve wondered that before about mom bods. See The dad bod? Fine. But what about the mom bod?)

Sure she can do the eagle pose in yoga, but can she wrestle a struggling toddler into a snowsuit? Yes, she can swing a 30 lb kettle bell but can she carry a heavy infant in a car seat and an arm load of groceries at the same time.

It’s not just wrangling children, of course. It’s also lifting bags of cat litter at Costco. It’s about shoveling snow. It’s about planting shrubs in your backyard. Like dads, moms do lots of heavy lifting. It’s not gym strength. It’s mom strength.

Personally I’m not much of a mom. I’m more of a parent. I prefer my parenting to be gender neutral.

But I like the idea of mom strength. Do you have any examples of mom strength at work?

A white woman with brown hair in a ponytail, wearing a green and white stripey sundress is holding a toddler in a pink hat. She's standing between two cars, one red and one green. Year? 1950-something?
Photo from Unsplash, A white woman with brown hair in a ponytail, wearing a green and white stripey sundress is holding a toddler in a pink hat. She’s standing between two cars, one red and one green. Year? 1950-something?

6 thoughts on “Dad strength? Is there a mom version?

  1. The one time my mom did lots of running around to get the attention of various people when someone at church fainted. Okay…that’s probably more mental and emotional strength than the physical strength this piece talks about, but I think it still counts. 🙂

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  2. Yes! My mother has never lifted weights. She used to do tons of cardio but has had trouble staying active over the last decade with a changing schedule and knee injuries. But my entire life, she’s always had this freakish brute strength that she’s used to help me move couches and beds, and even lifted me at my adult weight out of a river by the life jacket when we were whitewater rafting. Totally a thing.

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  3. Carrying ALL the groceries into the house at one time so you don’t have to make two trips. That sort of thing? Oh, and don’t forget about the 50 lb purses we carry around.

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  4. Carry all the ski gear and lunch stuff for the kids and yourself up to the hill, then ski all day, lifting them on to chairlfts etc, then carry it back down the hill, then lift and throw them in the pool and do races to see who is faster ….

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  5. I don’t know about this. Women do have a period of life where they are typically doing a lot of schlepping, but older women as a group are frail at higher rates than are older men. The least frail seem to be the women who continue to maintain physical fitness (by whatever means) into midlife, a point after which many women’s “heavier lifting” (when kids are young) is over. (My own experience is of parents who have always been very active physically but neither of whom has ever been particularly strong and both of whom are a little worried about my barbell lifting.)

    I would definitely love to live in a culture where old woman strong is as much of a thing as old man strong (I’ve never heard “dad strength,” for what it’s worth), but as a common feature, that seems to have gone by the wayside with family farming.

    Liked by 1 person

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