I don’t know if you’ve seen the Huffington Post article, Moms, Put on That Swimsuit, by Jessica Turner, blogger at The Mom Creative. I read it today, and on the heels of my latest post, I felt compelled to comment. The original response I crafted turned out to be way too benign and politically correct. After rereading my words and giving it more thought, I realized I was really trying to take a stand against mom shaming. That didn’t cut it, so I deleted that comment and decided to respond here. I’m about to get into some REALLY controversial territory, but as your momvocate I feel like something had to be said.
I don’t think Jessica intended her point to be taken negatively, but her article is comprised of the kind of content that as a coach I fight against every day. It’s a collection of societal Mommy Myths that feed upon themselves, to the detriment of us common moms. Myth #1 You will be frumpy and out of shape after you have kids. Myth #2 You must adhere to and enthusiastically accept this frumpy principle. Myth #3 You must promote this principle to other moms, and you all must forsake every shred of dignity to become comfortable in your discomfort. Myth #4 If you do not adhere to this principle then you’re a bad mom. Myth #5 If you do not shame and judge other mothers into adopting and promoting this principal, then you’re a bad mom, AND you have soured the milk of mothering-kindness.
At the risk of desecrating the institution of motherhood, I cast down these myths in the interest of moms everywhere. Mostly because of Myth #5 – the shame. The thing that most struck me about this article was indeed the shame. Although the author claims to free you from it, she is actually serving it up quite boldly as the main course. Shame upon shame, really. You’ve denied yourself time and permission for self-care and as a result you’re out of shape (which most moms feel shame about already). As if that weren’t enough, you should be ashamed of feeling ashamed! What?!? She specifically calls out mothers who decide not to wear swimsuits to the pool with their kids and sit on the side in their clothes because they feel like they’re too out of shape. And if you don’t, well then…refer to Myth #4.
They go to the pool with their kids, but they only put their feet in the pool. They sit on the sidelines, too concerned about what they look like and what others will think to embrace the joy of swimming with their kids. Or they go to the beach, but stay under the umbrella instead of running into the ocean.
Subtle judgement here…And it makes me incredibly sad.
Here comes the double scoop – shame and judgement…Because when women stay on the sidelines because of insecurity, we are modeling unhealthy behavior to our children and we are missing out.
Again we are asked to put everything aside for the good of the family. And this happens ALL THE TIME, in EVERY situation along the motherhood spectrum. “Don’t worry about YOUR feelings because they just don’t matter. You should be able to suck it up and be happy! It’s not about you, it’s about THEM.” We could use a break from all those expectations because we’re only human. And sometimes it does need to be about you. Maybe every single mothering event is magnified in our society because the world needs more mother blog content. I don’t know, but subscribing to all of it is exhausting and demoralizing. Not all of us can find comfort in the excruciating. I know I couldn’t.
To further my point, let’s look at the the span of hours in a day you spend with your children in the summer (I don’t know about you, but mine starts around 7am and goes until at least 9pm – that’s roughly 14 hours). According to the mommy Myths YOU MUST FEEL SHAME FOR NOT BEING IN THE WATER WITH THEM FOR 2 OF THOSE HOURS. That’s 14% of your time with them, forget the other 86% you’ve had together. You must publicly humiliate yourself in order to model healthy behavior…forget the eating pizza and downing multiple glasses of wine as you grope for comfort in your Mommy Myth discomfort because THAT’S healthy!
Pardon the sarcasm, but I’ve had it. I refuse to be talked down to and told that we can’t have a break once in a while. Especially those of you in the early motherhood season of so many changes and demands. And if that means not getting in the pool to spare some modicum of dignity, then so be it. On that day I started my journey 3 years ago, I was FORCED to wear a swimsuit because my daughter couldn’t swim on her own, and I was the only one with her. I put on that dreadful suit for perceivably the right reasons – so my daughter could enjoy herself. However, I was completely miserable and terribly distracted because of that fact. I would have ABSOLUTELY KEPT MY CLOTHES ON if I’d had the choice. ABSOLUTELY! My daughter would have had a great time despite my choice, and I would not have “missed out.” In fact I would have been grateful for the mercy of sitting on the sidelines with all the other clothed adults. And I would STILL have been a great mom.
I’m sure Ms. Turner is too. I think she looks fantastic. I’m THRILLED that she feels wonderful and happy in her lovely swimsuit and can spend quality time with her kids in the water. But I’m not thrilled that she feels the need to judge us into feeling the same way, because we may not, and we don’t have to. We really don’t. Even now that I feel confident in a swimsuit poolside, I don’t always dive in. And I feel so good knowing that when I do I will do it on MY terms, and not society’s.
Now, to Jessica’s point, putting on that mom suit had its advantages that day. Had I not done so, I might not be here, right now, having embarked on this amazing journey to share with you. But for me the exact opposite effect delivered immense goodness. Me realizing that I had been putting myself on the back burner for too long, and no amount of hypocritical good-facing could have repaired the damage from the detrimental coping strategies I’d used to get me there. I DESERVED to feel and look fantastic. My family deserved that too.
And so do you, amazing mom!