Yesterday morning, frantically trying to be on time as always, my 4 year old was doing somersaults on my bed. It messed her hair up, so she asked me to fix it. “In a minute!” “Mama, why do you keep changing your shirt?” “I’m trying to find one that I like” “But your body looks great Mama!”
“Baby, my body is strong and healthy, but it’s different than it has been so I don’t know what fits and how it looks”
“Well, my breasts are bigger making milk for your sister and my belly is smaller since she’s not inside there anymore and I’m just not sure how these clothes all fit right now”
“Well, hurry up so you can fix my hair!”
I have made it my mission as a parent never to let my kids hear me talk shit about my body. I have so (so so so) many moments of fat shaming myself in my head, and have even been known to complain to girlfriends, but never ever in the earshot of my girls. We describe bodies, but not with subjective terms. Never with fat or thin. Never with pretty or nice-looking. I know she hears everyone else in our world greeting people with “you look great!” but I didn’t realize how much it impacted her. I wasn’t muttering to myself through those outfit changes, I was simply putting on and taking off a few different t shirts. But she knew what what going on and felt the need to reassure me.
Since giving birth 16 weeks ago, approximately 100% of the people I run into say “you look great!” I’ve done it to women myself, this is what you say to the recently post-partum. I try to be gracious: “thanks, this one is a sleeper so I’m getting rest” but it does twinge my heart a little bit. This should be the ultimate compliment, but it’s just so loaded. And now my older girl is hearing it over and over again. I look like myself, 16 weeks post partum. That my girl knew I was feeling self-conscious, not that I was just searching for my favorite shirt, breaks my heart. And also fires me up. Obviously simply not saying anything negative isn’t enough. I have to fill the empty space with positivity. I have to go back to the work of truly embracing my body. Again and again.