Bodies do so much for us. From the moment we’re born until the moment we die, our bodies do countless, miraculous and amazing things in order to keep us alive, and to make us feel as good as possible while we do it. Sadly, our bodies get a bad rap in our society. We try to force them to look a certain way, and we get mad at them if they don’t perform 100% exactly as we’re taught to expect, tendencies that become especially insidious when we become moms. I’ve resolved that there are certain positive things my kids will know about my relationship with my body, because I want to break the cycle of negativity I inherited from my own family of origin and from the broader culture.
I’m committed to modeling what it looks like to be body positive, and sex positive, because I know how easily we can be led to do things that aren’t in our best interest if and when we buy into destructive yet common myths about beauty, sex, and relationships. I love getting dressed up and playing with makeup as much as the next person, but with being a writer, activist, mom, wife, friend and so much else, I don’t have an extra seven or more hours a week to spend doing my hair and makeup just to feel worthy of being seen by strangers (like I used to years ago). I’ve seen too many friends and loved ones suffer through bad relationships and endure life-altering physical and emotional consequences as a result of prioritizing a partner’s demands (or a vague sense of what “everyone” is doing) over their own comfort. I don’t want that for myself, and I definitely don’t want that for my kids.
Ultimately, I know that all the choices I’m making for myself become a living example to my kids, so I want to make each one count. Like the body positive and sex positive mothers I admire most, I want to make sure my kids know that:
I Love Myself
You know that moment in Mean Girls when "The Plastics" are standing in front of the mirror insulting their bodies, and Cady struggles to find a way to chime in? I want to raise kids who don’t even understand the concept of bonding over self-hate, or ritualistically refusing compliments about their appearance. (Hopefully they, unlike Cady, won’t even assume that good and bad bodies can be sorted into “fat or skinny.”) I want my kids to know that I love myself, including my amazing body, because I want them to see that it’s OK for them to love themselves, completely and without apology.
My Body Belongs To Me, First And Foremost
My kids will know that my body is mine; not my husband’s, not theirs, not my doctor’s, not my midwife’s, but mine. I am the one who makes all final decisions about it. They will see me set and assert my boundaries, and make informed choices about my health, and decide how, when, and with whom to be physically affectionate, because that’s just how it works with all bodies, theirs included.
I Do Things Because They Feel Good
I eat food that tastes good to me and makes me feel good, whether that’s broccoli, french fries, or anything else. I personally don’t like “boot camp” style workouts that make me feel like puking, so I choose physical activities, like family Pokémon walks and yoga class, because they’re fun and make me feel great, both during and after. I don’t have sex out of a sense of obligation to anyone, or to "keep" someone, or to avoid hurting someone’s ego; I have sex when I want to because I enjoy it, period. When they’re old enough to start asking questions about sex and relationships, I’m going to be honest about that. I don’t want my kids to feel like our bodies are things to be deprived or punished, or to be used for other people’s benefit at our expense.
I’m Working To Overcome Body Shame & Insecurity
I wasn’t raised in a body positive home, and we all still live in a not-yet-fully-body positive or sex positive society. I definitely have had to overcome a lot of social conditioning to be able to love myself the way I do now, and from time to time I’ll probably still do things I’d rather not, like disparage how I look before deciding if it’s “OK to leave the house like this.” However, I’ll make sure that on balance, the majority of what I say about and do for myself is positive, and I’ll talk about it when it’s not. That way, they’ll know that even if someone is mean to them about their bodies, or they feel insecure, that it’s OK, and that they can always step back into a place of self-love.
There’s A Reason We Don’t Own A Scale
While I’ve fortunately never struggled with a full-fledged eating disorder, I know how much the scale can disorder my thinking about my body, and refocus my attention on staying within a certain numerical range versus checking in with how I feel mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don’t want to feel beholden to a number that says very little about my health, and nothing at all about my worth as a person, so that’s why there’s no scale in our home. How we feel is more important than how much we weigh.
I Value What I Feel Like Over What I Look Like...
The majority of my comments about my body center on how I feel. “I’m in such a good mood!” or “I feel tired. I didn’t sleep well,” or “Mmm! I’m stuffed.” That’s because I’m more interested in what I feel like than what I look like.
...But I Think I Look Pretty Great, Too
That said, I think I’m beautiful, period. Not “beautiful, for a Black girl,” or “cute, for somebody who’s had a kid,” but beautiful, no asterisks or qualifications whatsoever. Claiming and proclaiming our beauty when we don’t fit every ridiculous cultural standard society puts forth is a radical act. I want my kids to know that I think I’m beautiful, and that it’s OK to consider yourself beautiful. If they catch me strutting or blowing myself kisses in the mirror, I’m cool with that, and I’ll tell them why.
I’m Proud Of My Body
My body made my son. It carries me when our family goes on hikes, and when play at the playground, and engage in all sorts of silliness wherever we are. It helps me enjoy so much of my life, and helps me express how much I love my family. Bodies are amazing, and I’m very proud of mine. I want them to know that so they can feel proud of their bodies, too.