Editor’s note: As a mother with a daughter, I’ve thought about body image quite a bit. I hope you love this essay about body image and motherhood from H.M. Jones today.
I wrote a poem just a few days back about body image and motherhood. I have a daughter, you see, and she’s beautiful.
She is creative; the stories she makes up far surpass anything I could write in my wildest fictions.
She’s smart; she remembers entire pages of what is read to her, at only five years old.
She’s sweet; she loves to help me with her little brother, holding his hand, explaining life to him, her two years difference vast in her young eyes.
So, as you can see, she’s beautiful. So I was astonished the other day when I asked her why she wouldn’t wear her new shorts I got her. She told me, “I don’t like my legs.”
This comment broke me apart inside. I immediately started taking in all the blame. Did I say something about my own body? Was I negative about my legs in front of her? I started analyzing why a girl of five years would have such a bleak body image.
A concise, sure stab to the heart. Already finding fault in a work of art. I’m reminded that I have never liked my legs, always too splayed, too fat, too long. I never loved my legs until I saw them on my daughter and realized that she has her dad’s chin, his smile, his nose, the slant of his eyes, but her legs are mine. And they are beautiful. I never knew. And now I do, too late to the game.
I lived in shame, never wearing shorts for fear my awkward legs would be laid bare. Until I held her, and smiled at the curve, the bend and length of her perfect limbs. I wear shorts, now, show our legs off, loving the legs that walk behind my every step.
I have to wonder if this announcement came from something I said? Something I did? Is self-hate inherited? I tell her that her whole body is beautiful, that every inch is precious to me, and I hope it won’t take her so long to see. Her body was my loveliest journey.
So I said, “Your legs are like my legs. Do you think momma is beautiful with her legs?” She nodded. “Well, then so are you with yours. I think you’re perfect, every inch of you. But, mostly, if you’re good, smart, and fun on the inside, you’re beautiful.” She smiled and we left it at that.
But this incident troubled me deeply because I’ve always hated my body.
For years, I was the one who looked like my brother. People would tell me how beautiful my sisters were and how, uh, smart I was. I was bullied for being fat for most of my life, and have always had a hard time with my weight. It’s been very recently—the last two years, really—that I’ve started being okay with my body, my imperfections.
And the reason is simple: I never want my daughter to hear me say something negative about my body.
[bctt tweet=” I never want my daughter to hear me say something negative about my body.”]
I remember my skinny, stunning mother always berating her body. It wasn’t her fault. Women are trained to hate ourselves from the moment we leave the womb. And it was worse in her generation because people wouldn’t call “bogus” on body image expectations like they will now.
But I remember looking at my chubby body and comparing my mass with her slender frame and feeling like an ugly, boyish elephant.
I think we inherit self-hate, sometimes.
But there’s good news.
I’m learning to love how I look, see myself as my husband sees me. And I’m starting to understand how temporary our exterior beauty is. I’m getting old, folks, and no amount of PIYO, Insanity or running is going to fix that. I’m still going to try to be healthy, you know, to live longer, but, honestly, I’m looking my age, and what’s so bad about that?
[bctt tweet=”I’m a #mom. I have stretchmarks, belly fat, and bat wings. And that’s OK.”]
I’m a mom. I have stretchmarks, belly fat, and bat wings. And a smile that makes my shoulders come up. And hair that curls around my ears perfectly. And hips that make my husband crazy. And a knack for writing, and a sharp wit, and an “I can do anything” attitude. And arms strong enough to lift both my kids at once.
And I’m beautiful. Moms just are, really. And so are daughters and sons. Instead of asking myself what I’m doing wrong, I think I just need to love me and love them and move on.
H.M. Jones is a mother of two who blogs about motherhood and mood disorders and PPD on her website. Her debut book, Monochrome, was published in August 2015 and centers around a mom with extreme OCD PPD. Her journey to lose her depression is fantastical, but the momma issues that come with it are not. H.M. Jones has blogged about motherhood for several sites. She is also a featured poet for a motherhood poetry anthology on body image, published by Monkey Star Press.