As a mother of tween and teen daughters, I’m aware that I am responsible for guiding them into developing healthy body images for their lives. Until recently, I thought I was doing a pretty fair job.
Recently my teen and I were shopping for clothes and to save time we shared a dressing room. No sooner had I taken off my shirt then I heard, “I didn’t know your stomach looked like THAT!” Naturally, it would be nice to pretend she was impressed by my rockin’ six pack abs hiding under my shirt, but alas no. She was staring at my pale, flabby stomach that has seen a few pregnancies. I turned around and noticed she’s comparing our stomachs and by the look on her face, feeling pretty good about herself. Ouch.
To add a little extra salt to the wound, a few days later I was in the pool with the family wearing a tankini. I’m relaxing on the inner tube when my nine-year old Birdie came over to poke at my belly that was peaking out. Seriously. She called the rest of the family to come over and not only see it, but “feel” it jiggle. Wow.
Once the sting and embarrassment started to wear off – with a little help from a mojito or two – I wondered why my girls were so surprised about my stomach. While I’ve never been a fitness model, I’m in relatively good shape for someone exercises only sporadically. Like most women, I’ve struggled through the years with my own body issues, especially when I hit that milestone birthday, but I think I look pretty normal for a forty-something mom with three kids.
So why were my girls so shocked? It dawned on me that those of us without abs of steel generally keep them covered, so the only bared stomach and abs they see are women on tv, fitness models or sports figures on magazine covers or the uber-fit moms that jog or lounge at our neighborhood pool.
If we all cover up our imperfections, however well earned, where else will they see normal mom stomachs? What three pregnancies does to a woman’s body? What real women’s bodies look like?
Well, I guess I could start with me.
So I’ve started wearing my old bikinis in our backyard pool with my girls. There was a bit of hesitancy on my part of letting it all hang out and a fair amount of pointing and giggling by my girls. But by not covering up I'm doing my part to help my daughters develop a healthier perception of what “normal” really looks like and that it’s okay to be “normal”.