The second you find out you are expecting a child, everything changes. In my opinion, the bar is raised a bit. Ha, not a bit. A LOT. Because now it’s not only you to be responsible for….we’ve upped the ante, and now it’s time to raise a productive, happy, healthy human.
BC (before children), I was already on the path of learning how to use nutrition in a HEALTHY way, and use fitness in a sustainable fashion. I had already dealt with much of the old baggage that lingered that said “balls to the walls” in the gym everyday, and “eat to constantly shrink.”
I had only scratched the surface on my mindset though, and THAT old baggage would last quite some time. I know (because I talk to you) that I’m like many of you. I have the same thoughts surrounding what I THINK about my body at times as you do, and can hear that loop in my head about somehow having a body that is gross, inferior, too big, or otherwise. I say the same things to myself too, even if they aren’t always heard by others. I too, want to cling to the next meal plan or diet or quick fix to ‘fix’ myself into oblivion.
Except, all that mindset baggage in tow is NOT the healthiest of ways to approach raising a little human that depends on me to show her what happy, healthy, and productive looks like, is it? Especially when you are in the nutrition and fitness business and read study after study that say things like 80% of 10-year-old American girls have been on a diet, or a third of boys and more than half of girls ages 6-8 wish they were thinner. Because little eyes and ears are impressionable, and surely they see magazines lying around advocating always being on a quest to lose something from somewhere. Or an infomercial claiming that in 60 days you can completely transform. Or the next big supplement out there guaranteed to change your life. Or when mommy picks apart her appearance in the mirror with constant pinching of body fat and self-critiquing.
So, when this happens:
The jig is up. It’s game time. Because young eyes and ears are all on mommy and daddy. And it’s no longer nice and fun to just talk about loving yourself and celebrating what your body can do, it’s ACTUALLY time to BE those things. Because we can tell and say all we want, but we know that words don’t mean as much as walking the walk, and talking the talk.
And when you look into her little eyes…..
It’s important to see YOURSELF in her. This little human is the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen, and I could NEVER EVER tell her the things I’ve told myself in the past. So, you begin paying attention to those things that creep into your thoughts a bit more, you become aware.
What about when she begins growing and seeing how the world operates and you want to desperately shelter her from everything so nothing can ever hurt her? Where you want to pretend things like poor body image, chronic dieting, self-loathing, mean girls, and alllllll that jazz don’t exist?
Well, you can, for a little while. But she’s still paying attention. She sees how you eat and what you do on the regular. She sees how you treat others. She sees how you treat yourself. She knows she relies on mommy and daddy to provide for her and to keep her safe, and the wheels are already turning and she is already emulating everything you do because she sees it day after day after day. So you REALLY begin paying attention to what you are saying with your actions and your words. And instead of just worrying about how YOU are being the example, you begin questioning how YOU really want to think and act and feel and say.
And when she thinks it’s fun to take a selfie…..
It’s a really friggin’ timely lesson on NOT avoiding the camera anymore. Not so much for HER, but for YOU. YOU need the lesson. All she sees is mommy who is smiling and happy with her, she doesn’t see all the supposed ‘flaws’ that YOU see. So it makes you get inside your head again and investigate all that ick that makes YOU see those fatal flaws, and begin to wonder why you think they are fatal flaws to begin with.
And when she gets a little older, and gets a little wiser on paying attention to the world…..
The ante is upped, once again. By this time, she has seen lots of things, and experienced many of the firsts. And she has realized that mommy and daddy are still her favorites, but they are human too, and humans do lots of good things and sometimes a few not so good things. And sometimes realizing they are human comes with asking questions. And asking questions faces YOU with a hard look at why you do things and realizing that hey, maybe some of those ‘things’ need to be dealt with once again. Maybe being a member of the clean your plate club is an old shitty story in your head and not something that’s REALLY helpful for figuring out eating habits with a little one. Maybe putting on a swimsuit makes you uncomfortable as shit today because you are having ‘a day’ but it doesn’t matter because it’s time to go to the pool and play whether or not you feel like showing off cellulite that YOU perceive as a fatal flaw for a fitness and nutrition professional.
And when it’s time for her to grow up once more, and find out she is going to be a big sister….
It’s another lesson in can we be awesome enough (rather….trusted enough) to raise ANOTHER healthy, happy, productive little human. And when your firstborn comments on your big tummy, you realize it’s literally that she just sees a big tummy. She doesn’t see all those words you can sometimes find yourself thinking in your head – fat, less lean, lazy, needs to workout more, needs to really tighten it up this week with eating….she literally sees a big tummy that is housing her baby sister. She has no idea of the back story that YOU are telling yourself behind her comment, because her comment was truly innocent, and YOUR internal reaction was, well, super friggin’ dramatic……and *gasp*….not at ALL productive for YOU.
Maybe, you begin to realize, that raising daughters is just what YOU need. Huh. Maybe all those lessons you’ve had to learn since the first one arrived are really lessons you NEEDED at those times. Maybe you put a lot of pressure on yourself, but maybe that helped you keep going through the lessons. Maybe (I think parenting is always maybe, because maybe your kid will turn out, and maybe they won’t, lol…you LITERALLY don’t know until they grow up) will have taught them that it isn’t about avoiding allllll the ick out there, it really IS about choosing your reaction to it, and owning THAT responsibility and power.
Being a mom for a little girl has taught ME so many things about how I operate. Yes, it started out as a desire to be a good example for her. But it’s turning into the realization that I want these things for myself, and sometimes it starts with me, so I can be there for her. I need to learn those lessons too. And the biggest lesson I’m learning is that I get to CHOOSE how to react to things. I get to set the tone for what goes on INSIDE my head, and how I talk to myself, think about myself, and ultimately, AM myself.
I’m not sure I would have fully learned those lessons so well if I hadn’t held a little baby in my arms that I helped create. That the body that I so often used to tell myself was flawed or broken, CREATED that little human that I love so much. If my body can carry and build something like that, how in the hell can it be flawed? That just doesn’t make much sense. How can I look into bright little eyes and see a fatal flaw? I can’t. It’s not possible.
So maybe, the lesson all along….was what I see in her I now see in myself. Maybe it’s been a four-year long lesson on learning how to love MY body, that started with awareness and curiosity, tolerance, acceptance, like…..and then finally, LOVE.
Let me tell you, fitness and nutrition really is the easy game, in my opinion. The hard game really does need to happen between your ears, but it’s the battle most worth it. I’m sure I will learn new lessons about myself and body image and all this stuff as we look forward to another little girl arriving here shortly, and to be honest, bring it on. Lesson time is growing time. Anytime you have to take an honest look at yourself….as much as that stinks sometimes….THAT’S where the growing and learning happens and THAT is the good stuff.
For the record, I don’t think being a mom is the only way you can learn these lessons. I think you learn them when you are honestly ready to learn them, and actually open yourself up to the ick coming in and figuring out WHY it’s there to begin with. That can happen at any time, so long as you choose to actually investigate why it’s happening and allow yourself the opportunity to do so, instead of just running the other way.
If you take away anything from this, maybe it’s just acknowledging the stuff you need to, and let yourself sit inside it for a while without turning away from it. As Brene Brown says, lean into that stuff. It’s where you become a detective about yourself and how you tick, and leaning into those things instead of dieting them away, or shopping them away, or exercising them away is a huge friggin’ deal. A healthy dose of prayer never hurts here either 🙂