This week’s link comes to us from Pam G, a friend from college who is a caring Mom of three (one older son and twin boys – she’s my hero!) The article is written by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who has a TV show and books and other fabulous stuff. It’s called Please Don’t Talk About Your Weight In Front of My Daughters,and in it she writes about the importance of adults NOT putting their own bodies down in front of kids.
Kids do what we do, not what we say. So even if you tell them they’re gorgeous and breathtaking, they’re still probably going to have bad body image if you talk shit about your abs 24/7.
And I LOVE the attitude this lady has towards food.
In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today. So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter. It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning. Crazy.
I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin. It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food. Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet. Which is fine.
I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff. My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand. So she literally bathed in it. While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head. A thick layer of sand coated her scalp. I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself. Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go. The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.
Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup. I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes. Now, I don’t have time for that stuff. Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.
When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin. You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE. When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes. And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.
Don’t get me wrong. I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine. But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.
Do you remember that time? Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose? When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves? When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys? When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?
Every day I’m convinced I’m going to give my 16 month old an eating disorder.
Which is stupid, really, because it’s not just one thing that causes one – but the fact that I’m recovered from one ups the ante a little bit.
Let me give you an example:
Every week, my daughter has her play group and like one week out of the month we stop to get Dunkin’ Donuts right before (me: iced french vanilla with cream, you know it, and her: one or two munchkins ((crazy baby doesn’t seem to care either way for them. WHAT??)) This morning, as I narrated her life, as I do maniacally every day, I said absentmindedly, “So we’ll get in the car and we’ll stop at Dunkin Donuts.”
She halted. Her head swiveled and her eyes lit up.
I guess she cared more about those sprinkles-encrusted balls of goodness than I previously thought.
And my head went into a mindspin. Is this why she’s in the 90th percentile? She’s going to get bombarded by obesity comments at the doctor’s in a couple of years. I’m so bad for giving her sugar, at all? I’m going to parent hell! I might as well be Honey Boo Boo’s mom! I might as well set up camp at McDonald’s. I’m ruining my daughter’s future!!!!!!
And then I stop, take a pretend Xanax, and reality-check myself.
First, I try to remember my therapist’s words (“It’d be pretty hard to force food to a baby, Amanda”). Then, I remember that I feed my baby quinoa on a regular basis.
(You should have seen it when I tried to explain what it was to my mother. She kept going, Kinney? Quinna? Finally I had to tell her to remember Joaquin Phoenix but backwards.)
(Some might even call me a “Quinoa Mom” – horrors)
And I mix spinach into her sweet potato so my fruit-lover will get some much-needed vegetables as well. And I buy those overpriced organic pouches so she’ll eat SOMETHING nutritious on a day when all she wants is cheese in 1/2 inch squares only. And, I don’t keep juice in the house. And over my dead body will she have soda.
I think my downfall is comparing myself to those gluten-free-paleo-vegan-vegetarian-GMO free mothers who don’t let a drop of sugar pass into their kids’ sacred bodies. But that’s kind of redonk, because a. I’m never going to be that kind of mother and b. I don’t, personally, think that’s healthy. Do I think kids should snack on Happy Meals regularly? No way. But do I think they should enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream that you can get messy in and smash all over your face? Absolutely. That’s part of being a kid.
And lastly, I try to remember the work I did on myself that brought me to the place where I don’t attach moral value to food, and the valuable lesson I will pass on to her.
So, I think I’m doing ok. In spite of the neuroticism.
I was asked that question 35 times the week before Easter. It was as if my child was going to a debutante ball. I tried to shrug off vague annoyance and proceeded to judge myself for having that vaguely uneasy feeling. But after judging myself as a “think-too-much Mom”, (Yes, I have been told that, even though I was under the impression it is 2013) I snapped upright and paid full attention to that feeling. I was annoyed, because –
Girls are supposed to be pretty and feminine and all decked out for everyone else’s enjoyment. Raiiight??
Perhaps boys’ mothers got asked as much; I don’t know because I haven’t had the chance to ask my mama friends yet. But I have an inkling that the pressure is on the girls, yet again, to step up to the plate and look pretty. The fashion industry snaps us up at birth by making girls’ clothing more fun. I’ve heard a million times from mama friends in hushed tones, “I love putting him in this suit, but it’s much more fun to look in the girls section. You have so much more.”
Can I please put my daughter in ripped jeans and a wife beater next year? Please?
OK, I’ll calm the feminist rebel in me for a second. Do I love dressing my daughter up? Of course. Is the baby girls’ clothing department aesthetically pleasing? Hell yes. But does your happiness and satisfaction lay in my daughter’s appearance? No it doesn’t. And my daughter and I also don’t want your projections of what a little girl should act or be like.
And even though I try to shield myself from the judgment, I then feel like I have to wipe off every frickin crumb off my daughter’s face and straighten out every hair from her ponytail. Aaaaand, the funny thing is, I don’t, because a kid’s job is be messy and ruin her clothes and fall sometimes.
And the bonnet! The f^%&ing Easter bonnet. I had a million frickin comments from people because she wasn’t wearing one. OK. If they only knew putting (and keeping) a hat on my kid is like trying to write with a gummy worm. Or something. And I’m not going to put my kid in something she hates just for appearances.
I’m not saying change tradition and stop parading kids around in their Sunday best once a year. I’m just saying, be aware. Body image and gender stereotyping stuff starts YOUNG. And it’s not me “thinking too much.”
Any of you who know me understand that I can’t stand celebrities like the Kardashians. I don’t touch reality TV with a 10 foot pole, and basically think it’s the breakdown of American society. So I paid little attention when she became pregnant. I paid a little more attention when I found out they are naming the baby “North”, (read: full name is North West. Want to commit heinous crimes.) and I paid a LOT more attention when photos like this surfaced:
…And of course, critique ensued. “She’s bingeing on cake, pasta and cereal!” “She looks fat!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Whoop de ding. Another female on this planet is pregnant, and she’s gaining weight. NO. WAY.
The joke’s on you, you dumbass media. You’re busy being all sick and gossipy, and Kim probably doesn’t give two sh*$s because she has every maternity designer and personal trainer at her fingertips. And we don’t give two sh%$s because we’ve gotten pregnant too.
Just lay off. Pregnancy is not a story anymore. A million women have gained weight and pushed babies out. Go find something more interesting to report on. I hear there’s a small situation in North Korea going on right now.
I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.
I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.
But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.
And I proceeded to have the strangest experience. The weight dropped off like NOTHING. I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder. I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.
I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter. I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues. And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding. I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this. Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS! (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that. Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy. That’s another book for another time. Ahem.)
Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child. Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier. Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John. It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit! And I’m still here!” Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that? I sure as hell do.
I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy. I just didn’t know what I had. This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength. But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.
I don’t have perfect body image. No way. I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy. Do I wish it was there? Of course not. But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out. I’m…proud of myself. I’m proud of my body. And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.
I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth. (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.) I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did. Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.