Mommy’s Hips Don’t Lie (they only jiggle)

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Every morning, as I get ready, my daughter stares at me while I do my makeup. She stands next to me while I put on mascara, with one eye closed and my mouth open (because everyone knows that it’s a natural reflex to have your mouth open when putting on mascara) and some days, she asks me, “Mamma what’s that?”, and I say “Makeup” and then she says, “Why are you putting that on your face?”.

What’s an appropriate answer?

“To hide Mommy’s raccoon eyes and gaping pores”?

“Cuz Mommy looks like a drunken sailor today so let’s do our coworkers a favor and save them from having to look at this atrocity”?

“To look pretty”?

“To look better than I would without makeup”?

I never know what to say so I give her the most sage and motherly answer I know: “Because”.

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I am probably overthinking this because she’s only three and still believes me when I tell her I put daddy in my pocket when she can’t find him. But I am astutely aware of body image and all the fun baggage it comes with. And I am also aware that it starts young.

I grew up with a mother who is beautiful in an unusual way and carries herself with grace, sophistication and a sense of style. However, she never put enough stock in her own attractiveness. She equated confidence in her beauty to narcissism. A way to protect yourself. Call yourself ugly before someone else does.

And this body image was handed down to me.

If you have struggled with this as a teenager, hell, life only gets more fun after you have a kid.

There are days I look at myself in the mirror and recognize the changes my body has gone through after childbirth. Before I had a baby, I had a heavenly bod. Jaws dropped, traffic stopped, men howled and dogs stared everywhere I went. Or at least that’s my memory of it. It may be foggy and hyper inflated now.

A female body before childbirth is like freshly made pizza dough; it’s smooth, firm and supple and when you poke it, it holds its own. Let it sit on the counter for an hour and it’ll have increased in size, have ripples on its skin from all the stretching, and when you shake it, it’ll jiggle. It’ll be a bit…looser. That’s a woman’s body post childbirth.

But the fact of the matter is, this jiggly body has achieved something remarkable. It transformed food into a human being, carried around an over sized watermelon for a good portion of a year and then sustained the aforementioned watermelon by turning itself into a food factory.

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And the pregnancy and post childbirth phase wrecks havoc on every woman’s body. It’s the least sexy thing you can experience. You are hot, heavy and uncomfortable. You are wearing clothes 2-3 sizes larger than your normal size. Your hands and feet are swollen. You have grown so much in certain areas that you own some delicates in your closet that can substitute as earmuffs for a baby elephant. You should hang onto those unmentionables because one day, you’ll be stuck on a boat in the middle of an ocean and will need to collect rainwater to survive and that bad boy will do the trick and store enough water for 30 days. If you are ever thrown off a cliff, it can be used as a parachute. You catch my drift.

So after going through all of that, if this body of mine can still look attractive on some days, that is freaking awesome.

While I struggled with self-confidence and body image, I have had 30 years to master it and have learnt to understand what’s beautiful about me. I’ve learnt to dress for my body, choose styles that are congruent to my personality, and carry myself with an ease that only comes with having lived in your body for a few decades.

But when you have a daughter, a positive body image isn’t just a personal trait to strive for, it’s a responsibility. I want my daughter to have confidence in the way she looks without making her believe that somehow, that’s the most important thing.

I want her to understand that feeling beautiful is more important than looking beautiful.

And I take special caution to what I say and do in this regard.

If she’s around when I step on the weighing scale, I try to keep the disappointed face concealed and F-bombs under control.

I wear makeup but only enough to look polished and clean.

She sees me enjoying and scarfing down poutine and pizza but then also biking (occasionally), hitting the gym (seldom), working up a sweat (rarely.)

I make an effort to dress up when we go out for special occasions but will step out for errands without a smudge of concealer on my face.

If I am having a bad day and feeling low about my body, I try to keep the belly pinching and body-part shaming demonstration (using a laser pointer), limited to my husband.

But I know that I can try and try but I’ll fail if I can’t genuinely respect what my mama gave me.

Some days the spawn will look at herself lovingly in the mirror and say, “Aww, I look beautiful!” Then I wonder if I am on the right path to teaching her self-confidence or (vis-a-vis my mother) in the process of creating a ready-for-endless-selfies, narcissist.

But I am probably overthinking it because she’s only three and told me yesterday that if she doesn’t put on socks, her ears are gonna hurt.

For now, I am working on coming up with a solid response on why I need to wear makeup everyday but why she can’t use my lipsticks.

13 thoughts on “Mommy’s Hips Don’t Lie (they only jiggle)

  1. Oof. What a minefield! My mother has body image issues and always criticised as I grew up; if I put on make-up or made an effort she would tell me that I was trying too hard and that I looked ridiculous or dumb, but if I didn’t make any effort she would tell me I looked lazy and homeless. So. I learned to carve out a very particular groove in the ‘just bland enough to be invisible’ area of things. 99% of the time I wear jeans and baggy jumpers. Years of conditioning have guaranteed I feel shame if I dress in a feminine way or wear make-up or do my hair, but also if I dress down too much. Even though part of me would like to feel comfortable and confident dressing other ways, I can’t help it. Sometimes I make an active effort to wear something I feel uncomfortable in, but then I spend the entire day/night thinking that other people think I look like a stupid fraud. Which I KNOW – rationally – isn’t true because I’m sure nobody cares what I’m wearing but there you go. The power of parenthood.

    I think instead of worrying about whether or not she’ll feel she needs make-up, just … support her. Support her curiosity. Encourage her to try things and have fun with dressing and make-up. Promote it as a creative outlet rather than a body-conscious need. As long as you support her and give her positive feedback rather than making her feel shame or fear or sadness, you’re doing a great job.

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    • Yikes ya I’ve been there too with my mom. And i think your mom forever lives in your head as a tiny voice with everything you wear/buy/things that interest you/the way you carry yourself. But i also realized that after a certain point, I can’t say that my parents raised me such and such way, because i am my own person now and can make my own decisions so i have to take responsibility for how i feel about my body and how I view myself. But you make a really good point about promoting makeup as a creative outlet more than a need, more than a cover up or need to look pretty. It’s just like art, but on your face! On a side note, i found her this morning sitting on a couch, wearing sunglasses and sparkly shoes, so clearly self-confidence isn’t an issue here.

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      • Yes, I am my own person now and I see how she affects me but just have to deflect it or let it bounce off. In the lowest moments though, it STILL gets to me. It’s infuriating! I’m hoping to be able to stem any criticism that isn’t constructive when it’s time for me to be a mother!

        You little nugget sounds pretty damn awesome, honestly.

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      • The damage parents do to their kids unconsciously is a very difficult one to shake off because it started before we had a conscious memory, and it’s ingrained into our personalities. But it definitely does help to be aware of it when you become a parent so you don’t pass down the bad stuff, only the good stuff. She actually, really is! Pretty entertaining too!

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  2. it’s definitely a heavy responsibility one which I don’t have to worry much about. surprisingly my son does notice when I dress up and says “mamma you look beautiful”. I take that compliment with a big smile and kiss him hoping that he’ll remember all the times his dad says that to me even when I look like absolutely crap!

    Daughters are different and from early on for some reason dressing up, clothes, jewelry, make up is a big deal. You’re doing great and you’ll figure out all the right things to say as she gets older. Again, your actions speak louder already and the fact that you’re consciously aware and actively watching what you say or do is huge! Maybe the focus should be on healthy eating and having a healthy body and wearing makeup because you’re an artist and like to paint (cuz that’s what I tell my son)

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    • Thanks! “Wearing makeup because i am an artist”. I like that, especially because of the magic i create with it some days haha. She is so observant when it comes to all these girly things. I can’t do my hair a certain way sometimes because she’ll have a meltdown before heading to daycare because she wants the same hairstyle as me! But I am cognizant of it and trying my best to give her that self-confidence at an early age.

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  3. “if she doesn’t put on socks, her ears are gonna hurt.”

    This is why I love being a parent, our kids say the cutest things. They are so precious. She’s going to be a great big sister. My daughter, 7, was making my son’s toast (5) today like she’s his mommy (not that his royal highness can’t do this himself).

    I can’t imagine the frustrations of pregnancy. My wife would walk nightly, after work, when she was pregnant and I think it really paid off. Both of our children were fairly easy births. Unfortunately, losing the weight doesn’t sound easy. She said she had to go hungry at times to shed it. Great job on setting a good example for your little one.

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  4. I have two little boys, so I got lucky in this department. They do not care what I look like or how I dress, they think I am the greatest thing in the world and that I am pretty even at my lowest and haven’t had a shower. It helps 🙂 I do however, have two nieces that I am extremely close to and that are a strong mix between girly and tom boy. I have to watch what I do and say around them as well, especially my 12 year old, she’s never really cared much about her looks until this last year and I don’t want her to ever think it’s important to be skinny like the rest of the em or have the cutest clothes.

    I loved the way you portrayed all of it! I used to have that same body when I was younger, jaw dropper. Here’s to one day maybe getting it back, but until then being comfortable in our own skin!

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