We were sitting at the supper table, everyone loud and silly, when Madison, who is 4, suddenly shouted, “Who’s the prettiest Mama in the world?” Everyone around the table yelled in response, “Our Mama!” I smiled and giggled a little, blushed, and told them thank you, but deep inside I was thinking to myself, “Are they crazy? Why don’t they see me the way I really am?” The conversation changed and my beauty, or lack thereof, was left behind for another bit of fun information that someone knew and needed to share.
Later after I read them a story and helped them to bed I once again was caught off-guard by Anna, who is 9, as she wrapped her arms around my neck, kissed my cheek and said, “Goodnight my beautiful Mama!” and then hurried off to her room. I shook my head at how silly they all were.
The next day as I sat with the kids watching a show, Ben, who is 7, snuggled in what is left of my lap. He looked up at me and said, “Mama, I love you so much.” Later Madison would want to snuggle too and she climbed up and lovingly rubbed my chubby stomach and giggled, “You’re so soft and warm, Mama. I like to snuggle with you!” I gently pushed her hand off my stomach and asked her not to “jiggle” me. She looked hurt. “But why, Mama? I love how soft you are!” She couldn’t understand that to me my soft, squishy, lumpy belly wasn’t something I was so proud of. In fact, I was downright embarrassed of it!
As I looked at myself in the mirror that night I examined every inch of my body. Oh what time and having babies has done to it! Things are stretched in places I never thought could stretch; things sag where they really shouldn’t sag; parts of me look puffy and fluffy, other parts look flabby, loose, and droopy. There wasn’t a part of me that the years have been kind to at all. No, I thought to myself, I’m far from beautiful, maybe even the farthest thing from beautiful there is!
I wish I could see myself through the eyes of my children. I wish I could look past the sagginess, the jiggly belly, the un-perky breasts, the hips that have spread and the legs that aren’t so slim anymore. But, it’s difficult to do when we have been conditioned our whole lives to place our self-worth in how we look. It’s hard when society tells us that if you have extra weight or anything that “droops” you aren’t beautiful. You can only be classified as “beautiful” if you wear some tiny size with perfectly manicured hair and nails, wear fashionable clothes and your makeup done at all times. Those of us who carry extra weight, wear a shirt that has sweet potatoes from our one year old’s lunch and boogers from the two year old’s snotty nose encrusted on it and who’s breasts are not quite where they used to be, well, we aren’t beautiful and we know it. It’s been drilled into us that we simply do not qualify as beautiful.
But where does beauty truly lie?
Often we look at the superficial outside layer of ourselves to judge whether or not we are beautiful. But there is something more to us than just our outside appearance. We are more than our jean size, whether or not our hair and makeup are done, or if we are squishy and lumpy. No, our true beauty is in how we treat our loved ones; how we give them unconditional love; how we delight in their giggles and smiles and cry when they are hurt. It’s in the tone of our voices, the smile on our faces, and the kisses we give. Our true beauty comes out when we read the same book for the hundredth time, when we fight the urge to get upset over another spilled drink, or when we snuggle for “just a little bit longer” when really we are all “touched out” for the day. It is in volunteering for our teens youth group, listening to the story of how so-and-so are the “absolute worst” (without rolling our eyes!), or in the dedication to early morning practices and weekend long games to cheer on our favorite athlete. True beauty is reflected in the sacrifices we make for our family and in the care we give them. No, true beauty can’t be measure by how we look, it can only be accurately measured by the love we have and the love we give.
I’m working at trying to see myself through my children’s eyes and not the eyes that society has thrust upon me. I’m trying to see myself as beautiful. It’s a hard journey though. I want to be able to look at my body and not just see stretch marks and sagginess. I don’t want to be obsessed with the fact that I need to lose weight and that I’m soft and jiggly. My body has been reshaped through love. It has been a place where new life has come into being, where babies have been nourished, and little ones have been snuggled. It has known the deepest sadness and the greatest joys. It is battle-scarred and has been wounded in the past but in the eyes of my children it is the most beautiful body in the world.
It’s ironic that we can see others’ true beauty and yet struggle to see our own. Yes, I am trying my hardest to look at myself through the eyes of my children. They see me as beautiful and I want to as well.