My children will learn body acceptance from me.
A few years ago, there was a great song by Frou Frou called “Let Go.” My favorite line from the song is “There is beauty in the breakdown,” as it rings true with me constantly.
As a mother of four, I regularly break down. It might be over spilled milk or another sibling fight. But no matter how frazzled I get, my kids still think I’m beautiful.
Now, I am terrible at accepting a compliment, have zero fashion sense or any idea of style, and would list my favorite clothing as pajamas. But to my four kids, I am the prettiest lady in the world.
And I need to learn to accept this. Because I do not want my kids thinking that there is anything wrong with them—we are all unique, and we are all beautiful.
I shy away from the camera, and if I do have to have a photo taken, I agonize over my appearance. I am never going to look like “that.” I am never going to have a model’s body—this body has been through two pregnancies, one a triplet pregnancy.
But the lines on my face are the marks of real joy, my laughing and smiling. Moments etched in time. My stretch marks are my kids’ paintings. I tell them that when they were in my tummy, they got bored sometimes and this is what they did. Now, they’re just a reminder that I am strong and can grow pretty great kids.
My weight fluctuates, but my kids don’t care. And I try not to get stuck on a number either. I don’t want my children to worry about numbers—I want them to focus on being healthy, active, and happy. And they have to learn how to do that from me.
Much to my dismay, my kids are constantly taking candid photos of me. I look at them and often grimace at how tired, drawn, cranky, or defeated I look. I usually delete the photos as quickly as I can. Why? Because I don’t like the angle, or I don’t like how my “stickyouty tummy” is sticking out a bit too much, or I have terrible posture (from a childhood of stooping, as I am so tall).
The irony here is that I love the natural and unposed photos of my kids. I love the raw happiness, the pure delight in their play, just brushing a doll’s hair or building legos. So I can take candid shots of them, but any of me are immediately deleted? What kind of example am I setting here?
Every week I document our lives. Every week I have countless photos of the kids, and rarely any of me. How will the kids be able to remember what I looked like when they were 4?
I need to start applying the principles of healthy, happy, and active to myself. I cannot change a great deal about myself physically, so I have to change my perceptions of myself instead.
We all have flaws, and I’m certainly well aware of mine. From my big nose that has been broken, to my monkey arms, my list is extensive. But, still, my kids see me as beautiful.
I can kiss away owies and apply Band-Aids with master precision. I can soothe unsettled sleepers, and frighten off the boogey man. I can fix things, I can bake things, and I can tickle and make them giggle until they can barely breathe. I am the only one with my exact set of skills, and for that I am special.
I need to stand taller, walk prouder, and remember all that I am rather than all that I think I am not.
I know this will take work. But it can start with me letting my kids keep their photos of me without having to “approve” them first. I need to prove to them that it’s perfectly acceptable to look however you look.
So here I am, kids. My hair isn’t brushed, I’m running on three hours of sleep, an am completely makeup-free. But this is me. This is your mom.
Isn’t that beautiful?
Photo of Ali Moloney courtesy of the author