I always imagined that I'd have a daughter, but when it actually happened, I was overwhelmed by these intense thoughts as to what she might, eventually, go through. I acknowledge that boys and girls have to deal with body image issues, but girls generally have to face more challenges on that (and many other) fronts, thanks to unrealistic beauty expectations and media messages and, well, you get the idea. It can be difficult to think that there's a way to protect your daughter from the inevitable (and sure, you won't be able to shield her from every dangerous message) but there are body confident acts every mom with a daughter can practice that will set an example and a standard of body confidence that your daughter can take with her when she ventures into the world, and is told that she shouldn't love the body she has.
Truthfully, some of these have been harder for me to put into practice, than others. When you've been inundated with messages that essentially tell you that you should hate your figure, for the majority of your life, it's difficult to change your way of thinking and/or treat yourself and your body with love and appreciation and confidence. I am borderline obsessive-compulsive, and you can often find me staring into the mirror, looking for stray eyebrow hairs to pluck. I have, however, made a vow to always go swimming when my daughter asks me to, regardless of how I currently feel about my body. It's not easy, but I want her to remember having fun with her mother, not watching her mother sit on the sidelines because she was too body conscious.
Which is why I ask that while you read the following list, you understand that I am directing these suggestions at myself, first and foremost. This is going to be a constant journey and struggle and effort for me; a part of parenthood I didn't necessarily see coming, but am reminded (day after day) of its undeniable importance. Plus, I don't know many moms out there who aren't works-in-progress, especially when it comes to body positivity. Having kids does a real number on your body image, but if you want to make sure your daughters grow up feeling strong and empowered, here are seven acts of body confidence you should be doing around them.
Go Swimming With Your Daughter
I really think this is the most important act any mom can do with her daughter. Do you know what your daughter sees, when you put on a swimsuit that makes you feel less than perfect but go into the water to play with her anyway? Your daughter sees her mom, playing with her. She doesn't see rolls of fat. She doesn't see cellulite. She sees her mom.
Go Outside Without Makeup, From Time-To-Time
Full disclosure: I love to wear makeup. I am a big advocate of concealer (and much more, when I'm going out for some social event) so that I look less tired than I actually feel. Do I wear anything when I go to the drugstore, or even when I drop my daughter off at kindergarten? Nope. Your daughter should see that you don't need to go through a whole beauty routine every time you leave the house, in order to please the male gaze or live up to an expectation that has been perpetuated by an extensive amount of photoshop.
Get Changed In Front Of Your Daughter
Some moms feel weird about the probing, curious eyes that kids have when they see their parents naked. Body confident moms realize that bodies are no big deal. The less weird we act about our bodies, the fewer hang ups our kids are likely to develop.
Answer Questions Your Daughter Has When She Sees How Your Body Is Different Than Hers
If you allow your daughter to see you naked (which I think every mom should, from time to time), you will find her looking at certain body parts with curiosity. Why do you have hair under your arms sometimes? Why do you have breasts, but not her? Answering her questions honestly will help prevent confusion in the long run, which will help build her own confidence.
Walk Out Of The House Without Checking The Mirror 20 Times
Little eyes are watching. If your daughter sees you preening in front of every reflective surface, she might begin to wonder whether she should be spending more time in front of the mirror, too. Don't worry, I'm not saying you should avoid all mirrors, as no one should have to apply mascara without one. That's just cruel.
I'm not talking about obsessive exercise or anything, I'm just talking about getting out and doing things with your kid. Chasing your daughter around a park, and not being afraid of what jiggles is an act of body confidence. It's also an act of being a f*cking awesome mom.
Call Body Parts By Their Real Names
Body parts are body parts. Calling them by pet names can imply to your daughter that we shouldn't call them by their real names because they're something to be ashamed of and whispered about and, well, they're not "normal". There's no reason for your daughter to ever feel shame about something as natural as her body. Just, no.