Having a baby is a glorious, life-changing event which leaves you breathless and teary-eyed. Your body has done something miraculous! You’ve housed another human being, growing them from a cluster of a few cells to a living breathing person. That’s pretty damn cool, Mama.
But then you look in the mirror, try to wear your favorite pre-pregnancy jeans or think about swim season. Your hair starts falling out and – what the hell? – you have acne all over again. The cost of making this beautiful little life just took an insane toll on your body, and potentially, on your self esteem.
It’s totally normal to have a woe-is-me phase, but here are some things to keep in mind as your children grow and look to your example.
We are our kids’ first model of body image, confidence, and self esteem.
Whether our kids are girls or boys, before long they’ll start to pick up on comments we make and things we do. It’s essential that we take care to love ourselves (yes even the flab and the stretch marks), and respect ourselves, so that our precious children will learn to do the same.
I’ll also add as a side note, this matters whether you have girls or boys. Or both. Your young ladies will one day be women who need to have a healthy opinion of themselves. Your boys will grow to be men and deserve this too, and also need to see how to respectfully treat a woman and her body.
When you’re by yourself in your bathroom, you can complain and moan all you want (I wouldn’t recommend it for your own sake, but if you need to get it out of your system, do it when no one else can hear you). But when your kids are around, please refrain from derogatory comments about your body, skin, weight, etc. Your kids don’t know that you’re fat or flabby or anything other than perfect, until you put that poisonous thought into their minds.
To your kids, you’re just beautiful in every way. Until you tell them to feel otherwise.
I also had to consciously flip a switch mentally to rethink how I said things. When my two year old son asked what I was putting on my face, I said “makeup.” The kicker was when he asked that inevitable “why?” Should I tell him because that’s what makes me pretty? Because I need it? Because I’ve always had bad skin and I hate leaving the house without literally concealing my scars and red spots? These answers would only confuse him and hurt his perception of me. So I told him “because it’s a fun way to dress up!” This isn’t a lie, but it was an honest way to answer him which also forced me to look at makeup in a new way.
Now, with two little set of ears listening intently to everything I say, I am careful to talk about healthy foods and hygiene as well as my perception of myself. I exercise and eat right because I love my body and want to take care of myself, not because I need to drop these last few pounds from pregnancy. I am showing them the example I want them to follow by living it myself. They don’t know what insecurity is, until I show them by modeling it myself.
When I think about how I want my son to view women, how I want my daughter to treat her own body, how I want both of them to look at the world, there is one word which comes to mind: respect. Respect is what I need to show my own body, so that my children know how to treat theirs.
One word: respect.
My kids know what a sincere compliment sounds like. They are already learning about privacy and the anatomically accurate names for their body parts. My three-year-old can tell you all about proteins and vitamins, and why we need to brush our teeth or wash our hands. We drink water, do yoga and Zumba together, enjoy the sunshine and make healthy choices. Doing these things to take care of our body becomes habitual, and hopefully will follow them as they grow.
It is never too early to start thinking about how you will have these dialogues with your children. What do you want them to think when they look in the mirror? How do you want them to feel about their appearance? What healthy habits do you want them to embrace? These conversations happen when your children are still young. They are essential skills to having a healthy body image, and we are their first example of how to speak about our body.
The way I treat myself will be forever ingrained in the minds of my children.
Don’t believe me? Want to read something sickening? This article was the motivation for me to write this post. This has GOT. TO. CHANGE.