I look at myself in the mirror and wonder what has become of my skinny, energetic twenty-year-old self. I have a conversation with the stranger in the mirror almost every day. I miss the old me, that could fit into skinny jeans and wear a figure hugging outfit without the unsightly rolls of fat hugging my middle. Then this morning I read an article that my friend posted on Facebook. It talked about an issue that has been bothering me for some time now. As mothers we continue to hold ourselves to the same standards of beauty as we did before we gave birth. We judge ourselves harshly for the way our bodies change after we have children and as we age. This pressure to have flawless skin and the perfect body takes so much away from our experiences in life. Many of us are missing from family photos, when instead we should be at the centre surrounded by our loved ones. We are embarrassed to meet friends whom we haven’t seen since before the birth of our children. Sometimes we even suffer from depression and low self-esteem. This is not surprising since we are constantly bombarded by images of what society considers to be the standard of beauty.
The article was a poignant wake-up call for me that I must learn to accept the new me and honour my body for what it has given me. Two beautiful healthy children, who are my pride and joy and who remind me every day that each stretch mark is a memory of carrying life within me and that the ugly scar from my C-section is my personal trophy for bringing my daughter into this world. I have wrinkles now where there used to be smooth skin and dark shadows around my eyes that hide what used to be laughter lines. But these are monuments to the many sleepless nights I have spent when my children were sick or when I have been awake worrying about making the right choices for them.
Nowadays I watch my daughters, now eighteen and fourteen, looking at themselves in the mirror, fussing about a tiny pimple or imaginary fat thighs and I cringe at the thought that one day, years from now, they too will be sad at what they see in the mirror.
So I am making a promise to myself, to look at my body with eyes that are more kind than critical. And like the author of the article, I hope to teach my daughters to accept and love their bodies even when they are no longer skinny with flawless glowing skin, because life will leave its marks. I hope that instead they will learn to see that their beauty lies in the rich lives they have lived and in the ones they have created and nurtured.