Honestly, I haven't always been the most confident person. With over 30 years of weight fluctuations, self-esteem issues, and postpartum changes, body acceptance is something I'm always grappling with. As a result, nudity isn't something I've embraced, even when I'm alone. No matter how hard I try to come to terms with my natural body, flaws and all, I'm just not there yet. However, of all the reasons I don't allow my children to see me naked, it's not necessarily my insecurity I hide behind. Instead, it's often theirs.
When both kids were a bit younger, I didn't focus much on nudity or the need for privacy, because I didn't want to stigmatize, sexualize, or infer negative feelings surrounding anyone's body. Nudity, after all, isn't shameful; it's completely natural. Back then, I merely dressed and undressed as needed, and if they had pressing questions about any body parts or why they look the way they do, I'd answer them openly and honestly (while silently screaming in my head). My intent had always been to normalize bodies, including and especially mine, but over time my feelings have shifted. Before I knew it, I was asking myself, "When should I stop being naked in front of my kids? Is there even a right answer?"
Not long ago, when I exited the shower, my 5-year-old son commented on how "crinkly" my thighs are. While some kids his age may have poked, prodded, laughed, or expressed childlike curiosity, he was genuinely concerned something was wrong with me. I still remember his big, sorrowful eyes asking how to "fix" the boo-boos. In that moment, I realized something: it didn't matter how hard I worked to ease everyone's nudity discomfort. What he saw was a deformity or something not "normal." In my earnest attempts to normalize bodies, I accidentally did the opposite. He still mentions that day every now and then as I modestly hide behind a towel (while pretending not to), or when he has to accompany me into the restroom. To be completely honest, it's a moment I don't want to experience again, for his sake or mine.
Along the same lines, my 10 year old daughter — a carefree girl who's always been body positive — recently hit the pre-pubescent milestone where all she craves is privacy. I respect that. Her uneasiness with her own changing body signaled to me I should do the same when around her. So, I did. While I've tried to navigate nudity with my children as each moment happens, it's still something I have to really think about. Every parent has to make their own decision, but for me, here are some reasons I don't allow my kids to see my "crinkles" anymore.
Because I Don't Want My Kids To Be Uncomfortable In Their Own Bodies
No matter how I explain this, the message I intend is for my kids to be OK with who they are (even if their mother still struggles with it herself). When they were smaller, I didn't think too hard about undressing in front of them, but the older they get, the more my nudity changes how they perceive their own bodies. I don't want that. While I won't obviously run and hide, I do announce when I'm about to change or go to the restroom so they have the opportunity to leave if they wish. If they choose to stay (typically my son still lingers), I'm modest, gage any reactions, and act accordingly.
Because I Can't Pretend I'm OK With It
Through my children's toddlerhood, it was a lot easier to seem OK about being nude in passing. Though honestly, it's not something I've ever felt comfortable with. I applaud any parent who's confident enough walk around sans clothes without an ounce of fear or shame, but I'm not that person. Growing up in split households, I switched from one place where nudity was shameful, and another where it was arguably too lax. Body image and self-esteem intertwined and eventually forced me into being embarrassed by my body.
I certainly don't want to confuse my own kids, and I'm starting to accept that I don't have to do things other parents do in order to be a good mother.
Because I Want My Kids To Understand Privacy
My son has very few boundaries with me right now. I believe it's because he's a curious 5 year old, but at some point I need him to respect when I need privacy, like when I'm menstruating and need a bathroom trip alone. For the times he's seen me, I've learned to be OK with it because at least he's seeing that bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and are not always what he sees in a magazine or a billboard or on television.
With that said, there comes a day when everyone needs privacy, and it feels inappropriate (to me) to do anything naked around my kids. My 10-year-old daughter has already demanded her own privacy, on her own accord, and I know, eventually, my son will catch up and ask for the same.
Because I Don't Want To Tarnish My Kids' Memories Of Me
Again, nudity is a natural, non-sexual thing. Having grown up in the split households though, I still have uncomfortable memories of someone walking around nude. It's not typical, and most parents never intend to make their child feel this way, but you never know exactly how much they'll remember, or how it makes them feel in the longterm. Those things, for me, created the stigma and did sexualize what a body is. I don't want to do the same, however harmless or accidental.
I'm confident I've not done that to my children at this point, but why take any chances?
Because I'd Rather Let My Kids Take The Lead
No matter how many body positive speeches I give, how much I emphasize confidence, privacy, self-esteem, and comfort levels, I don't think this is a place I'm comfortable leading. I've tried and though I haven't failed, per se, my fear of causing trauma, shame, or any sort of stigma is much too high. While my reasons for modesty may be the opposite of any other mother's (but I salute you), I have to do what I'm OK with, so my kids are OK with it, too. I suppose that's the hardest part of motherhood — figuring all that out as I go.