One of the most difficult things for me about the postnatal period was the changes that occurred to my body. I’d read quite a lot during my pregnancy about how the body changes as the baby grows and positively enjoyed the excuse of eating for two! However, I rather naively assumed that my body would get back to normal after the baby arrived, obviously not in six weeks like the celebs manage, but definitely in a few months. Unfortunately, for me this was not the case and it was even worse after our second child. I really struggled to accept my new body and my self-confidence was at rock bottom. There is not a single photo of me in the year after our daughter was born and I avoided mirrors like the plague.
As mothers we’ve learned to do for our children things which we have been unable to do for ourselves, and this was definitely the case for me in terms of learning to accept my body. As my daughter started to grow I started to think about what I wanted for her future. I stated to think more critically about the popular media message that when it comes to our bodies aesthetics are to be valued over function. I wanted my daughter to value herself not because of how she looked but because of who she is and what she can achieve. It was liberating when it came to my relationship with my own body, as it felt like I was being given the chance to have a fresh start.
A mother’s influence over her daughter is not just in what she says, but also in what she does – how she relates to food, diet and exercise, if she makes derogatory comments about herself. Many of our attitudes about our bodies are learned from our mothers. If we want our daughters to feel good about their bodies, we must model that behaviour ourselves. One of the reasons that I love exercising is because of the sense of achievement I get after a workout and the way that my body feels so much stronger now. So many people see exercise as a punishment, or as a necessity to help control their weight. But again, if you think about if from your kids perspective, exercise is just movement. Our children are constantly on the go, they love challenging and testing their bodies and are open to new experiences and activities. At Mama on the Move we are passionate about the power of exercise in helping to empower women and get their sense of self back after having children.
If you have ever engaged in any put downs of your own body, decide to end it right now. You know what I mean, “My thighs are huge” or “I hate my stomach”. Try instead to think of your body in terms of the miracle that it is. Yes, I’m still not happy with the way that my stomach looks right now – but it enabled me to grow and give birth to my two children. You don’t have to love your body, you just have to accept it and be comfortable in your own skin. If you think back through some of the things that you may have said about your body and then imagine your daughter feeling these things about her body it can help us realise just how toxic these thoughts are. As Marcia Hutchinson said, “If you talked to your friends the way you talked to your body, you’d have no friends left”.
Another thing that having kids has made me think about is the manic non-stop way that many of us live our lives. Our never-ending to do lists and hectic schedules can lead our children to view us as little more than hired help and adulthood as some sort of purgatory. However, I want my daughter to look forward to growing up and be excited about her opportunities as a woman. Therefore, it’s important that you learn to slow down for a period of time each day and take time out for yourself. Too many of us have been raised to believe that taking time for ourselves is selfish, but to properly look after others we need to make sure that we are also taking care of ourselves. When I first started exercising I felt so guilty about taking half an hour out on the weekends to do a workout. Now I know that I will come back energised and refreshed and a much better mum!
Being a mum is not easy but we need to try to be a source of positive power for our children. We need to help them learn from us, draw from our strength, appreciate their assets and learn that the power to love their bodies is theirs and theirs alone.