Last Sunday, I found myself hanging out with my son at the swimming pool. While he was enthusiastically swimming, I found myself getting distracted by other bodies and self-disparaging thoughts. "How did she lose her belly so fast? Wow, look at those arms... How do her thighs not shake" – you get the idea. My mind started to wander as I admired the many bikini-ready women with young to very young children in their vicinity. My son, noticing my stares, happily broke my concentration by splashing me with water and laughing happily at my obvious distraction. He did say I look gorgeous as I was, but that really is no help, is it, Mummies?
Determined to feel better about myself, the very next day I stepped onto the dreaded scale and the number reflected and replicated my Facebook feed – pictures of cakes I had made, ice cream afternoons, and of course my favourite mojitos. Of course, the scale does not reflect the fact I do a regular workout. After driving my son to school in the mornings, I make it a point to go to the gym and actually work out. I do my regular check-ups and make sure I am relatively healthy. Yes, my scale is also judging me quietly.
We, in Sri Lanka are blessed with sunshine around the year. We can experiment with our clothing – whether we are on the beach in our tankinis or bundled in sweaters in Nuwara Eliya. But its time like these, when we are poolside or at the beach down in Una, we begin to reflect on our body outlines, stretch marks and size tags on our clothing. It is a quiet reminder of what has happened to our bodies post-babies. It does not have to be that way. Instead of self-criticism, we should self-congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved this year. We should celebrate what milestones we achieved for our partnerships, our friends and what we have with our families.
We are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities that have amazingly got their bodies back after having a baby. The pictures don't reveal not just the plastic surgery they have undergone, nor the many hours some technician has spent photoshopping perfection to their pictures. We are also body shamed by other moms, whether it be friends who mean well, our own mothers or even a random stranger who remind us on a constant basis of what we should look like as opposed to what we currently look like.
Ignore this, my dear fellow chubby yummy mummy friends (see, it has an amazing ring to it!). By focusing on the negatives of ourselves, we are missing out on precious moments with our families when we are busy staring enviously at other women's bodies.
By being jealous of each other, we will miss the perfectly built sandcastle our kids and us built together. We will miss chasing our children around the house, and fall into a laughing giggling mess. We will miss out on impromptu cooking lessons and sneakily eating the cookie dough off each other's fingers.
Yes, I may not have the envious figure I once had (not that I was skinny by any means). But unlike then, I have a companion who adores me, truly for who I am. I kiss away tears, chase away monsters, sing silly songs, and discussion with a person who actually likes my opinion. Granted, my buddy is only 9 years old and I am sure this will change once he hits his teens, but I am going to enjoy this time.
What else can replace an ice cream date on a Friday, where we discuss our week? A cheat meal where we go to a favorite restaurant and spend time with each other? Can my pre-baby weight bring me that? I don't think so...
Our kids don't see us as the chubby whales we imagine ourselves. To them, our chubby arms are comfortable pillows that hug them and protect them from failure. Our round stomachs are cushions that they lie on when looking at the stars. Our children will remember the games we played and how we spent the entire day in the pool, playing and racing each other. They won't remember whether we wore a size small or extra-large swimsuit to the pool. They won't look at our stretch marks, rather they will focus on our faces as we make goofy faces at each other in a race to make each other laugh. Plus, by loving ourselves for who we are, we are creating a wonderful sense of self worth and a positive body image for our children. At least, we are stopping the body shame, one child at a time.
I can hear the fitness professional and dietician yelling "What about your health?" Yes, I do agree health does come first. Of course, nothing can come in the way of that. After all, if you are unwell because of your eating habits, say goodbye to happy memories and welcome the new memories which your children and partner will share. Memoirs of you getting your blood extracted for the numerous health check ups you would be going to, visits to the doctor, hospitalizations. All not-so-good memories. So don't forget to look after yourself, after all, if you don't take care of yourself, who will? Even your poor husband is not going to run around all day to take care of you, he has your children to take care and his boss most likely will not be happy knowing you have willingly put yourself at risk.
Through it all, what I have realized is, even though I may not have lost all the baby weight I gained, I have acquired a more important lesson. I have reaped more confidence, happiness and perspective. That is more valuable than anything else. And yes, Justin Bieber was right about one thing – "Oh baby, you should go and love yourself" and the ones who love you will love you right back.