Talking with my mother
My mom and I never fought. I can probably count on one hand the number of times we have argued about anything. I never really understood those girls who were always at odds with their mothers, or the motif in books and movies that pitted mothers against daughters. That wasn’t what my life was like.
I have also never been one of those women who fears becoming her mother. My mom is strong, and smart, and creative, and loving, and exactly what I want to be when I grow up. She has always been my role model. So, I thought I would ask her some questions about her body.
1. What did you think about your body when you were my age? Younger?
I had a pretty good body image in my growing up years. I was a bit tom-boyish throughout grade school! I recall being somewhat self-conscious about being tall – – more in junior high years than later. During those years, Connie [her sister, about four years older] & I shared a lot of clothes – many of which Mom sewed for us – and that was challenging being Connie was much shorter than I. But, in junior high, I started earning just enough money so I could buy some of my own clothes – that was helpful and made a difference to me in how I looked and how (I thought) I was perceived. I was also involved in athletics & so tall-ness was generally a good attribute!
Being in such a large family probably imposed more of an impact on me than anything else – no one of us had the luxury of hanging out in the bathroom to, say, putz with your hair or anything. (With seven kids and one bathroom – there was no dawdling!) I think my parents tried to be “fair” by not giving attention on any one of us more than the other.
By senior year, when I was nominated for homecoming queen, I was feeling pretty self assured! I didn’t consider myself a knock-out by any means, but I was quite content with my body – accepting the good and the not so good!
2. How much did your mom influence how you thought about your body? your sisters? friends?
Mom didn’t overtly influence how I thought about my body really. Yet, she did – in some respects – more by what she didn’t do than by what she did do. I remember friends whose mom’s would often be nagging them about their posture, their clothes, their hair and other such things – which was shocking to me – my mom never did that. I’ll forever remember Mom coming home from a night out with other couple friends saying how so-and-so spent a big chunk of the night complaining about this-or-that about their kids. She said they should be looking for the good things. We were neither nagged on nor bragged upon. Above all we were to think for ourselves, rely on ourselves, and be the best we could be.
As far as sisters – it was Connie that introduced me to “make up” ~ when I was in 7th grade, I think. Connie went off to college when I started 9th grade and got married before I graduated high school so she really wasn’t around to impact me in my high school years. By 10th grade I was buying all of my own clothes, shoes, etc. It was thru a friend that I learned that clothing came in “talls” – and how would my mom (or sisters) know this ~ not being particularly tall themselves ! My younger sister, Denise, really had no impact on me – we were four years apart and had MUCH different bodies. She was shorter and stout so we really didn’t share much or have much in common.
3. How did your thoughts about your body change when you got married? Had children?
Hmmm – mind you, this was 29 years ago! In my 20s, I felt pretty good about my appearance and I was in very good physical shape!
Child-bearing definitely impacted my body image . . . . I was probably more self-conscious about my body during my pregnancies than ever before or since. Odd, isn’t it – that such a temporary time frame would be that impactful? I had acne after both births and I’d never before had a complexion issue – ever – so that was not fun. Luckily, after a few months it went away. Plus, I was so used to being energetic and for the first time found myself so energy drained ~ I really didn’t know how to handle that. On the positive side, I do remember having beautiful fingernails when I was pregnant – must’ve been the vitamins or the extra dairy or something.
4. What do you think about your body now? What is one thing you really love about your body?
I often find myself wishing and wanting to be thinner.
One thing I really love is my skin – I’m lucky to have minimal skin issues (i.e. age spots, wrinkles)
5. Were you intentional about fostering a good body image in me? Was that different with AJ [my younger brother]?
The answer here is a resounding yes. I think being able to deal with body changes and images in a positive manner thru your youth is a stepping stone to learning how to cope, as positively as possible, with other changes life brings your way in the future. I don’t ever remember making a big deal about what you or AJ could or couldn’t wear, about your hair, etc etc I wanted you two to accept yourself/your body and expend your energies on other things… learning, friendships, etc I wanted you each to have a stake in your attitudes and appearance – and be accountable yourself. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if either had done something completely “out of bounds”??
My wish was and continues to be that you to respect yourself and others. That doesn’t mean agree with everyone or look like everyone – just to conduct yourself with respect & treat others with respect. . . . regardless of their choices.
Just last week when I got my haircut – there was a mother/daughter in the booth next to me & the power struggle was amazing. The girl (junior high age) wanted her bangs longer & swished to the side kinda over her one eye. The mother wanted them cut short. Man, that made me uncomfortable and I really felt sorry for all involved – especially the hairdresser!
So it goes – and I imagine attitudes pass on from mother to child. Some are domineering, controlling moms who live and re-live their childhood thru their own children. Others, I imagine, have no behaviors to model and do things “in the moment”. While my “style” was somewhat intentional, I don’t think it was restrictive. I don’t know what I’d change if I had it to do again.
Of course, maybe you’d have some ideas for areas of improvement for me 🙂 [I don’t.]
Similar to how parents choose to discipline – how they choose to work through matters involving body image is probably as unique as the two sets of attitudes and behaviors brought together by that individual couple.