Loving Myself for My Kids

Loving Myself for My Kids | Duluth Moms Blog

{Photo credit: JaneCane Photography}

“New Year New You.” “Bikini Body.” “Get Your Pre-Baby Body Back.” Having worked at an eating disorder facility for nearly a decade, you can imagine I have quite a few feelings about these statements and a novels worth of tales to illustrate my thoughts. Every year around this time as we’re bombarded by the latest diet trend going around or the newest advertisement launch for the deals at the gym, I end up doing my own body image inventory; a sort of check-in with myself regarding my body image journey. Lucky for me I happen to have a 32-year old time capsule to document my journey: My body. 

It goes something like this: I look down and I see my feet that carried me all over Central and South America in my college years and across the finish line of marathons in my mid-twenties. I look at my toes and I see the same quirky shapes as my mother. I view my hands and I see the long fingers I inherited from my pianist grandfather. I look closer and I see the scar on my index finger that reminds me of my late father who had to rescue me from the drain of the kitchen sink as a baby. I see the scar of a belly button piercing and I remember the giddy visit to a tattoo parlor with my best friend at 18. I observe with pride the new roundness of my belly decorated with tiny stretch marks that reminds me how powerfully my body created, carried and birthed my babies. I observe the strength of my arms that allows me to hold those babies for hours on end and carry all of the groceries in with one trip (two trips are for quitters!). I see the new lines and tiredness around my eyes, and I remind myself how amazing it is that I can function on such little sleep (and how grateful I am for coffee). Even those new sun-spots I see popping up take me back to hot summer days on the lake or playing my heart out on the soccer field, two of my most favorite things growing up. 

The relationship I have with my body was not always one of acceptance and love. Unfortunately, like many, I’ve been through stages of self-judgment and even disgust. There was so much wasted energy worrying about my weight, my face, my lack of height. Waiting to lose weight, look better, and telling myself I could be happy “if only” something were different. Even buying clothes I didn’t feel comfortable in but thinking they’d help motivate me to change. Looking back I was living with a bully and that person was me.

Working in the field of eating disorders I became hyperaware of the messages we get daily about our bodies from television, online sources, magazines, movies, our families, our teachers, and our friends. Those little jabs that may seem like no big deal in the moment add up. I educated myself and then my clients about the truth behind these messages and how we can safeguard ourselves and each other from their damage. I had successfully relearned how to view myself and my body, and I was passionate to help others do the same.

During this period I had hit a point in the relationship with my body of acceptance. It was so much better than it had been I considered myself healthy and immune to outside pressures. I was comfortable in my skin, and most importantly, I was helping others recover from the devastating impacts of eating disorders. My body was just an accessory that allowed me to do the things I wanted and I learned the better care I took of it, be it through rest, indulging cravings, or working out, the better I felt emotionally. Looking back I didn’t really consider my own body much at all, the headspace it took up was minimal.

And then I had kids.

For many women, pregnancy and the time postpartum impacts their body in such a way that it’s difficult to prepare for mentally. The changes and experiences are different for everyone, and it’s such a personal and intimate process between you and your body. I went in to being a parent with a conviction for body-positivity and I knew if I wanted my children to love their bodies, I had to lead the way by example. I’ve learned that teaching body positivity is so much more about “do as I do” than “do as I say.” If I wanted my kids to be able to love their bodies from the get-go, they had to witness me loving my body first. In other words, this passive relationship I had going on wasn’t going to cut it.

And so like any good student, the research began. Yes, there was a ridiculous amount of articles and studies I read about parenting and body image, but the real research was on me. I paid attention to the thoughts I directed towards myself and I changed my weaknesses into strengths. I challenged myself to think and talk about my body as if I were complimenting my friend or even better, talking to my own child about theirs. Because in the end the voice we use with our children is the voice they will inherit and use for themselves. It was a change that I didn’t even know I needed, however, it was such a positive, dramatic shift that I felt it in more areas of my life than I expected. As a mom in a helping profession, taking myself into consideration was one of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made.

If you’re up for the challenge, I have some questions to get your wheels turning: What story does your body tell if you view it as a time capsule? Is there something about your body that leads to a story you could share with your kids? 

2 Responses to Loving Myself for My Kids

  1. Kacey M January 31, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Incredible post, Angie. Love this SO much! I hope that EVERY woman has the opportunity to read this and really HEAR the message!

  2. Stacy Saindon January 31, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

    Love it Angie! Preach.