From Kate Middleton’s tiny tummy and Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, to articles and opinions all over Facebook and twitter, my head is spinning with everyone’s idea of women and what their body roles and social expectations are.
I read an article posted by a friend, where the author of the post discusses why a mother should only talk to her child about her body on the technical issues and to tell her she’s healthy. Granted, there were many good points in the article, such as how we women talk about ourselves and each other, affecting how our girls view themselves. My main issue with the article is that each one of my four little girls will have friends, TV, and internet, among countless other venues including social media everywhere they turn. I cannot fathom the damage I would have done to myself worth as a teen if I didn’t have a mom and friends to talk to. From worrying about my “bubble butt” and hearing my friend call it a “Slammin’ backside” to talking to my mom about why cigarettes seemed so cool in the ads growing up and having her talk to me about long term–not so pretty–effects, it helped just as much as wishing my boobs were bigger and my tummy was flatter might have hindered. I knew everyone else wanted that too. It wasn’t just me.
Women compare ourselves to what we see. I don’t know why we do, but I have yet to find another woman who doesn’t. I want to be there to talk to my girls about what they are seeing and what that means for them. With their own bodies, each one of my daughters have differences in appearance. Just between each other, and they notice. All of them are beautiful, but different. Kind of like chocolate. It can be shaped, colored, and proportioned differently and anyone with an ounce of honesty can say each one of these is desirable, purely based everyone’s love of the food in general.
Now, after listening, reading, watching and judging this past week, here’s my soap box rant.
Our bodies are what we make of them. If you walk up to the most beautiful woman you can think of, she can rattle off ten things she’d change about her body if she could. There isn’t any thing wrong with wanting to be more healthy or beautiful, but as with every other part of life, moderation is key.
My theory is that if we walk the walk and talk the talk of the kind of woman we want to be, we become that very thing. Women who carry themselves with class and dignity, who treat themselves as if they are naturally beautiful …are. We other women sense it, believe it and tell ourselves we aren’t that at all and simply wish we were.
Honestly,it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I don’t think Miley’s performance was that big of a deal. I’m grateful that Miley’s performance is getting bad hype, though. It gives me a chance to talk to my girls, who heard about it at school, about how we present ourselves and how having something to prove (like “I’m not a little girl anymore”) can back fire. We can talk about how Miley is beautiful, but doesn’t always portray that. My daughter noted she didn’t look like she felt good about herself. I love that Kate Middleton looks great postpartum and I am so glad that she has the ability to feel the joys of motherhood. I was able to talk to my girls, who heard it on the radio in the car, about how our bodies change many times in our life and every baby Kate has will add smile lines on her face, inches on her waist line and even if she doesn’t melt those inches off, she will still be stunning because of how she presents herself.
I talk to my kids about how working out to be healthy and have the energy to chase after your kids, or giving up a diet to really enjoy baking brownies with your little girl (or any other body altering thing), is a personal choice every mom has to make when trying to balance herself with her nurturing nature and other hats every woman puts on. I talk to them about the wonderful women who never get married or who can’t have kids and it opens their minds to the many options and situations that are both a blessing and a curse, depending on the woman. All of them have body issues.
We all want to be beautiful, to be complimented, to be graceful and charming. We want to look like what our generation sees as beautiful. It was something else many times and whether it is curves, or rail thin, or long legged, or plump, there are always other women wishing they felt like people looked at them the same way.
I worry that in our “You don’t need to diet, you’re perfect just the way you are”/”Eat healthy or you’ll get fat” society, it is confusing. We need our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends to be there and talk about it. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a single womanhood issue that doesn’t have opposing opinions being shoved down our throats. There are so many mixed signals we send each other:
Screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the film Charade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stay at home/work and provide.
Keep a clean house to be a good mom/let it be messy if you love your kids more than cleaning.
Don’t judge looks/that girl should never wear skinny jeans.
Natural healthcare/Professional healthcare
Be YOU! … Just not like THAT.
Be Grace Kelly AND Marilyn Monroe AND June Cleaver… ready go!
Going back to the idea that our self worth and sexuality starts at a very young age, sends my mommy instincts a whirl, wondering what my girls are going to tell themselves. But I really don’t have to wonder. They have the best source for their own well being right here. Me. –no pressure right? But for me, I feel that everyone can be like their ideal role models–or at least aspects of them and I want my girls to talk to me about it. The way my husband and I address these issues will effect so many parts of their self esteem and sexuality growing up. I want them to see the good things and recognize the bad for what they are.
What we should do is let our kids talk to us. Ask our daughters what they see as appealing to them in their idols or role models. Talk about why they feel that way. It may surprise you that it is less her Prada or size 0 tag, or partying habits and more that she just seems… beautiful in general. She has a quality… a confidence. So, ask if it is the way her idol looks, or if they want to feel like that celebrity or model must feel, being that confident or beautiful. We can all feel confident and beautiful if we treat ourselves like we are, and act as if we are.
I am not built exactly like any woman I admire, but it doesn’t matter. I have danced clumsily with my husband in the kitchen and felt like Grace Kelly. I have had a meal baked, kids looking cute and had everything in place when my husband walked in and felt like June Cleaver… even though it was a little crispier than it should have been. I’ve finally fit into that cute vintage dress and felt like Audrey Hepburn. I’ve been on stage, looking great and felt like Marilyn Monroe. But I’ve had pretty much ever insecurity a girl can have as well, and perhaps more frequently.
I believe we have these insecurities to be constantly trying to improve ourselves. No, that’s not a bad thing. If we stop growing, we lose out on so much. It is why we are here, to get smarter and better and kinder and… well just insert the thing you desire of yourself: creative, strong, outgoing, or more quiet and reserved, etc.
Talk to your kids about what they see and think. They’re smarter than we often give them credit for.
I want to note that I am not a perfect parent, and who knows what kinds of therapy my kids will need someday from my particular style, but I do know that I want my kids to be able to use what they see as a tool to feel better and strive to be better in a productive way. Complaining forever more that society is evil won’t help them. Admitting it is confusing and helping them figure out what works best for them might just work.