Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How's Your Body Image Today? Wait, Don't Answer That.

I have spent 26 years in my body. Aside from the first nine and very confident years of my life, do you want to know how much time I’ve spent actually liking that body?

Maybe 400 days all together.

At the age of 9 or 10 I hit a chubby phase and I just didn’t know how to get out of it. When other girls my age were losing their baby fat and looked like little string-beans, I was gaining. My confidence quickly declined.

To console myself, I ate.

I remember eating handfuls of sugar from the baking cupboard, just because there were no other sweets in the house. I envied my younger brother, who seemed to be able to do the same thing and not gain an ounce.

To console myself, I stayed in my room and read books while he went out and played basketball.

My weight went down in high school because I was going out with friends all the time instead of staying at home where the cookies were, but after that it was once again a struggle. Being a stay-at-home-mom and getting through three pregnancies have made it even more so.

And I can’t pin all of the poor self-image on weight issues. I always knew I’d have those because, well, there just aren’t a lot of Skinny Minnies in my family tree. On days when weight isn’t a concern, it’s other things. Stretch marks. The way my eyes kind of go down on the ends instead of up. My “man hands.” My nose. The mole on my neck that my kids sometimes find and pinch. Saggy boobs. Thighs that touch. My sometimes painfully-obvious mustache.

There are so many nit-picky little things I see when I look in the mirror.

I’m sure you can probably relate. You may even be thinking, I don’t know why she thinks she’s got so much to complain about, look at ME.

I know what you mean. Because I look at other people, maybe even you, and think the exact same thing.

But something in me has changed. It is growing slowly and I hope it continues. It started the day I learned that I would be bringing a little girl into the world.

In the time since then, I have been thinking more about what I tell myself about my body. Because I want things to be different for her. I don’t want her to struggle with her body image the way I have struggled with mine. I want her to look in the mirror and see those sparkly blue eyes, sassy curls, and perfect pearly skin and know she is beautiful. Even more than that, I want her to look in the mirror and see past the outside. I want her to smile at her reflection because she has laughter and confidence and peace inside. I want her to believe me when I say to her the same thing she always says to me –

“I love your heart.”

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that my “issues” magically disappeared overnight because I wanted to change things for my daughter. I have good days and bad days. I still want to cry every time I see numbers on the scale going up instead of down. But now, when I take a moment to reconsider, I am able to see how screwed up that is, and at least that’s a start.

I guess something we should be asking ourselves is, “Who is telling me I’m not good enough?” Is it “the media?” Men? Celebrities? Models? Society? No. I’ll tell you who it is.

It’s you.

We are all stuck in this horrible habit of telling ourselves we’re not good enough. And until we can start to look past all that, there is little hope for future generations of women. For our daughters and granddaughters. For their daughters and granddaughters. The cycle will continue until we stop expecting so much from each other, but more importantly, stop expecting so much from ourselves.

And it’s hard.

But here’s what I think – if we start doing more to be honest and loving to our own bodies and the bodies of those around us, no matter what they look like, we can do it.

We can do it, because it matters.

It matters because we will never learn to live with love and happiness if we can’t accept and appreciate our differences, no matter how big or small they seem. 

From the smartest woman I know.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Know Why You Pinch Your Kid in the Grocery Store

Mothering, I have found, is one of the broadest and most difficult areas of study a woman can take up.

In the moment you think you have found a solution for one “mommy-problem,” another one arises. What works for one child doesn’t work for another. What works for another child may only work for a single day. Or a single hour. Or thirty seconds.

The role of a mother has to be so flexible that it can bend over backwards, touch its toes to its shoulders, change a diaper with one hand and simultaneously prepare dinner with the other.

Honestly, I sometimes feel like I will break.

And I know this is nothing new. The internet is chock full of the sarcastic rants, emotional stories, and heartfelt suggestions of mothers in all walks of life these days. I am a quiet voice in a noisy crowd when it comes to this blog. But I am a voice that wants to reiterate something to you:

I hear you.

I know how you feel.

I understand that in the moment you pinched your child in the grocery store you were feeling angry, tired, and a little out of control (or a lot). But, for just a moment, you didn’t really care.

And guess what? I think that’s okay.

I’ve been there. Soooooo many times. And it is hard to admit how imperfect I really am.

Because we are so overloaded by pictures of perfection on social media that we feel that there must be something we aren’t doing right. And we contribute to that dishonest media flood, hoping, perhaps, that we will “fake it until we make it,” all the while wondering: Why are all those other moms playing and cooking and crafting with their children when I can hardly manage to serve mine breakfast without feeling overwhelmed? Why does this mom or that mom seem to be able to juggle homeschooling, sewing little dresses, running twenty miles, and making a fabulous meal all in one day when all I want to do is lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling?

I’m going to make a little bit of a suggestion here, mostly to myself, but also kind of for you if you’re nodding your head as you read this.

Stop checking your Facebook feed every few hours.

Stop scrolling through Instagram every night before bed.

Stop searching Pinterest for crafts you can do with your kids and following links only to find yourself sucked in by another “perfect mom” blog.

Stop reading the blogs of relentlessly optimistic people who turn every misery into a “there’s a reason for this.” Sometimes maybe there really isn’t a reason. And it is 100% okay if you want to wallow in your pain, your sadness, your misfortune.

Stop trying to be something you’re not.

Because you may not be the mom who has the patience to homeschool.

And you may not be the mom who has the skill to sew little dresses.

And you’re certainly not the mom who likes to run twenty miles per day.

And fabulous meals only happen maybe once a month. Maybe.

Smiling through chaos since 2008.

But you are a mother. A mother who loves her children. A mother who loves to read and do all the voices. A mother who loves to dance in the living room and sing really loud. A mother who tries to listen, answer questions, and give honest explanations. A mother who snuggles, kisses, hugs, laughs, cries, and strives to understand.

Fill in your own blanks.

You are your own kind of mother. Perfectly imperfect.

And you’re so good at it.