“Mommy, I look fat.”
Oh those are words every mom dreams her child will say, no?
Sometimes, when the mirror is placed directly before us, we plainly see the example we set for our children. Whether it’s the shorter shorts, the plethora of bikinis or changing fashion trends, summertime tends to bring body image and all its baggage to the forefront of the modesty conversation.
Last summer, I posed the question to “bikini or not?” Great points were made by many of the commenters, and it’s given me pause to take the conversation a step further.
How am I preparing my children, particularly my girls, to have a healthy body image? I want them to feel like a lady, always.
Beautiful, not sexy.
Loved, not lusted after.
Respected, not objectified.
I’ll freely admit, I struggle with the same demons. In high school, it was about fitting in and being accepted as a cool kid. In college, I wanted to attract a handsome boy on a date. But to be fair, I was never sure how to properly act like a lady without feeling like I was selling my true self out. In college, I saw too many friends develop an ugly battle with eating disorders. While I was never a diagnosed as an anorexic or bulimic, I did find myself skipping meals, binging on water or participating in a fad diet for a short-term solution. All for the sake of being skinny.
After the births of each of my five children, I made the all-too-often mistake of trying on my “skinny jeans” just weeks after childbirth. Can’t you hear the alarms now? Bad idea! Bad idea! After my fifth child was born premature, I went on the never-advised NICU diet and lost quite a bit of weight and then the stress promptly put it all back. One afternoon, as I sat crying in my closet with a heaping dose of self-pity, my husband peered inside and said these words: “No matter what the number says on the clothes, babe, you will always be my beautiful wife.”
And there it was. The only thing I really needed to hear. My self-worth was not tied to my dress size. If the man I loved most could see it, surely I could, too. It’s a lesson that’s spilled over into my motherhood role, as well.
I had to start asking myself some honest questions:
What do I say when I see myself in the mirror vs. what do I say when my children stand before it?
How do I react when someone compliments me vs. when that same person says something complimentary about my children?
Does my self-worth rely on my outward appearance vs. what do I want my children to value most, the external or the internal?
I recognize that with every nickname, every off the cuff comment, every achievement, every failure, every outfit choice, every heavy sigh, my children are building the foundation for their own self-worth. Am I helping them by pouring the concrete or shoveling the sand?