Saturday, January 14, 2012

To Mother A Girl

My stepmom posted this article for me to read, and now, well, I'm inspired to write about it.

When Eleanor emerged from my body and we discovered that she was a little girl, I cannot lie - it was the single best moment of my life. Not only because I'd just birthed a baby and was soaring from the hormones having a natural delivery allowed me to feel, but that baby was a little girl. All my life I have dreamed of having a baby girl, and here she was. She was all mine, and such an incredible gift.

But, to be sure, a huge responsibility, and it is not lost on me the challenges that will come with mothering a girl.

To be a woman in this world is so difficult. One of my biggest fears is raising a woman who does not love or respect herself - specifically, her body. The pressure to be thin, be sexy, be perfect - girls cannot escape that, and it hits earlier and earlier in life. I fear the day she'll look in the mirror and see anything less than perfection, but I do know that that day will likely come, and sooner rather than later. It breaks my heart to think that she'll ever seek affirmation of her self worth based on her body and not her character, but I am sure that day will come as well.

Most of the day I am caught up in doing tasks - make dinner, do laundry, shower, give a bath, etc...and in this life of going through the motions, I feel sometimes I miss real parenting. When are we supposed to be teaching life lessons, imparting our values and cultivating this little person? Yes, she is only 8 months old, but it's not too early to be concerning ourselves with these things. We make a conscious effort to tell her, outloud, when we praise her looks to slide in "and you're good at math". It's sort of a joke, but it's not really. As her parents, we want her to be confident in her brain as well as her beauty. The challenge for me lies in how to much to emphasize one over the other. I fear too little emphasis on her beauty will lead her to seek affirmation in unhealthy ways growing up. Too much emphasis and we risk vainity and a reliance on her body over her mind. It's a difficult balance and while I know I don't need all the answers now, I know before too long I will be confronted with these hard topics.

The mother in the article I linked to was forced to face her seven year old announcing she was FAT. What a heartbreaking, yet pivotal parenting moment. Her response was great, and I will certainly file that away should I find myself in a similar situation. Interestingly, it was at my fattest (non pregnant) state that I first found my body truly beautiful and gave myself the respect I'd been deserving from myself for so many years. Three days after delivering Eleanor, I was still riding high from witnessing what my body was capable of. I still weighed more than my husband, and had bright red stretch marks going across my torso and running down both thighs. The rash I'd broken out in the week prior to delivery was still there, so I looked like I had the chicken pox. My belly was huge and soft, and I was incredibly engorged thanks to the arrival of a plentiful supply of milk the day before. I paint this picture to show how in the societal sense, I was anything but beautiful. My mom was holding Ellie and I was getting ready to go to the hospital for our post-partum checkup. I had just gotten out of the shower and having just given birth, modesty was the last thing I was thinking about. My mom commented on how I looked like "a mother-earth, fertility goddess" and in that moment, I appreciated my body more than ever before. I hope I can help Eleanor come to that appreciation much sooner in life, but in the meantime, I will thank her for helping me learn that important lesson.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! All of it. All those deeper parenting moments are woven in and through the practical chores. A lot is "caught" rather than taught. Most important is the security of her parents' love, for her and for each other, and their own security with their own bodies and selves. None of us can protect our children from experiencing their own struggles, but we can walk with them through each one, giving them an example for their adult lives, when they will have to walk by themselves. Ellie is in good hands.