A couple of months ago, I was contacted by someone who was putting together a panel on body image. They wanted the perspective of a mom with young daughters. I talked with that woman on the phone for about an hour, but realized yesterday that she never followed up, so they probably selected someone else.
Looking back, I think I know why I wasn’t picked.
The woman was telling me about how body image issues are presenting themselves younger and younger and asking me about Mazzy. I told her that hasn’t really been my experience at all. I don’t think I’ve heard Mazzy ever say anything negative about her body. Nor have I heard her ever say anything negative about someone else’s body. It’s really just not something that she thinks about. If anything, sometimes she will come down on me for being too concerned about how I look, but that’s usually about putting on make-up. I don’t think Mazzy thinks that I think about my body either.
I think that’s due to a combination of me making an extra effort to never seem self-conscious about my body around her, and also because I am genuinely so much more comfortable in my own skin at this age than I used to be pre-kids.
For instance, before I had kids, I used to try on outfit after outfit in the morning, focusing on what wasn’t working and trying desperately to find something that would hide all the aspects of my body that I was less than comfortable with. Now, I never want to appear like I am scrutinizing my body that harshly or carefully. I also try not to place too much importance on what I am wearing in general. If I put something on, I don’t look at myself at every angle or ask anyone how it looks. I just make a quick decision on my own. When I go to the beach or hang out at a pool, I might wear my cover-up while I’m sitting on a lounge chair, but I make every effort to seem completely comfortable walking around in my swimsuit and going into the water, no matter who else is around. As minor as that may sound, that was a big shift in behavior for me! I don’t deny myself fattening foods and prefer to practice moderation, without ever mentioning things like overdoing it or dieting. I do not count calories or even weigh myself, except at the doctor. We don’t even own a scale. When I started working out a couple of year ago, I told the kids it was to make my body stronger and healthier, instead of thinner. I said it was the same reason their education included physical fitness.
Granted, I don’t think I could have done any of these things before I had children. I just had a different priorities back then. I have also grown to accept my body, including what I once perceived as its faults and limitations. I think I’m doing pretty good for 44! Ironically, I think becoming more comfortable with myself has had a positive effect on what I look like. I imagine that’s true for everyone.
So. I will take a little bit of the credit in my daughter’s healthy sense of self.
But, from what I can see, Mazzy is not unique. It seems like all her friends, who are all shapes and sizes, don’t really think about this stuff either. They seem way less concerned with how they look than me and my friends when we were the same age. Sometimes even to a fault because I’ll try to suggest a little grooming like— “let me do something with your hair” or suggest that she wear a better fitted pair of shorts, and she always says, “It doesn’t matter, Mom!”
Maybe I’m being totally naive and all the body image issues are right around the corner…I’m sure puberty is NO PICNIC. Or maybe girls are focusing on more important things and that’s the new trend?
What has been your experience?