The other day Chris told me a very upsetting story. He was upstairs with Isla when suddenly she stood in front of our mirror, pulled her shirt up and said something along the lines of, “My belly is fat, Daddy.” He was shocked and when he relayed the story to me I nearly cried.
This did not come from me. I swear it and I know it. I have NEVER said those words since that sweet child came into this world. And that’s not because I have some crazy six-pack abs. On the contrary, I will likely never wear another bikini and don’t often marvel at the state of my post-baby belly in the mirror. The truth is, breastfeeding has been kind to me and I’ve easily dropped my baby weight, but I haven’t been comfortable with my mid-section since I was 16. There’s quite a bit of mushiness leftover and I’m alright with it. I hope to dedicate some time in the near future to my own health and I’d love to get a little stronger in some areas, but motherhood, and specifically being the mother of a daughter, has brought me to a place of acceptance. I made a promise to myself and to my daughter (though not to her face) after she was born that I would stop criticizing my body and that I’d never let her hear me be critical of my appearance. No trash talking or comparing other women’s bodies either.
That’s not to say I don’t think about this stuff in my head. Do you have any idea how many of these “outfit photos” I delete and deem unworthy of ever seeing the light of day? A LOT. But I keep taking them. Not because this is the most creative outfit ever and you guys all need to go out and look like me, but because this is me and this blog is called Really Risa and sometimes I get dressed and take pictures and tell you why I love something I’m wearing or how I’m feeling. And because it helps me. It’s therapeutic as a stay-at-home mom to have something that is mine. This space. These pictures. It’s really nothing. But it’s something to me, no matter how many of you read it. So yea, I’m as critical of myself as everyone else. You’re your own worst critic, right? Right.
Isla asks me on a daily basis why I wear make-up. “What you doing, Mommy?” followed by, “Why? What? Why?” My response is: “Because I like it!” The truth is more along the lines of: “Because I’m breaking out like a teenager and my face is asymmetrical in ways that are upsetting and getting worse with age and the list goes on.” But my toddler does not need to hear those reasons. So she steals my makeup brushes and mimics me in the mirror and smiles up at me and then moves on and goes about her day. We don’t say things like “girls need makeup” or “makeup makes you pretty” or anything like that. In fact, we don’t talk much about physical appearance at all. We tell her she’s strong when she lifts big things and helps with Theo, we praise her for working hard when she solves a problem and encourage her when she can’t quite figure something out by telling her to “Keep trying!” and “You can do it!” We praise her thoughtfulness, encourage her empathy, talk about kindness and friendship and constantly tell her we love her.
Simple, important messages.
Some days she wears a tutu, other days she wears the super hero underpants she picked out from the “boys’ section” at Target. Some days she wants to be a “cowboy,” other days she carries a raccoon purse and twirls around the house. She loves Diego, Paw Patrol and Buzz LightYear. She also loves mermaids, cats and butterflies. We just go with it.
This also goes for my son. Not just because I want him to be respectful of women and care more about their character than their appearance, but because women don’t have a monopoly on body image issues.
I have no idea where Isla learned the phrase “my belly is fat” and if I get my hands on the person who said it in front of her I’m going to have a very strongly worded conversation with him/her. My hope is that she has no idea what that phrase means and will forget she ever heard it. In the meantime, let’s all agree to be kinder to ourselves, to our daughters and to each other. I won’t be jealous of your rock-solid abs if you promise not to be envious of my mushy middle parts.
But seriously. You’re beautiful. Inside and out. Repeat that until you believe it and then live it because it’s true and you’re the only person you need to convince.
And our children are watching.