There are fewer words that I dread hearing more than “swimsuit season.” So the fact that swimsuit season came early for me last year, in the form of a winter break beach vacation, meant less time to get swimsuit ready and more time to dread being in a swimsuit.
My husband and I had been planning our holiday for months. Every day, my husband pulled up the hotel’s website. Like a giddy kid before Christmas he’d say, “Look, they have a lazy river!” Or, “We can spend a whole day at the beach.” But truthfully, all I could think about was me in a bikini in that lazy river or me sucking in my tummy on that beach. While my husband and kids were dreaming of fun, family time in the sun, I was secretly dreading having my “I’ve had two children” body on display.
I started to dread it more and more. My body isn’t bad. It’s just not great, or at least not as great as I wish it were. And it’s certainly not as great as it was before I had kids. I never wanted to be the woman whose body issues impeded her ability to be with her family, but thinking about being in a bathing suit for a week sent me into a tailspin.
But as the trip got closer, it was clear to me that I was going to have to make peace with my body or I was going to miss out on enjoying the trip. What would you tell your daughter? I thought to myself. What would you tell her if she hated her body as much as you hate yours?
Obviously when it comes to my daughter it’s easy. She’s beautiful and lovely. And I’ll see her that way at any age, no matter how many children have stretched out her tummy or made her hips just a little bit wider. Her body will be perfect because it’s hers. “You were born perfect,” I always tell her. So why can’t I say the same thing to myself?
Would I ever be as hard on my children as I am on myself? I think, knowing full well that a parent would be borderline abusive if they spoke to their kids the way we moms speak to ourselves. We dread our post-baby bodies. We lament our fine lines. We wish we could look like anything but ourselves. And we miss out on what’s true and wonderful about us as we are now. We, too, were born perfect which means we still are, I say to myself. Why shouldn’t I talk to myself the way I talk to my daughter?
So I made a decision right then and there to give myself the vacation I deserve. And that’s a vacation from hating my no-longer flat tummy, from lamenting the loss of the tops of my tits, and from wondering how many more lunges I’d have to do to take a few years off my hips.
I decided to stop squeezing myself into the swimsuits that used to fit and get some that I really like now, for the body I have now. I stopped trying to be who I was and tried to get comfortable with who I am. I resolved to watch what I eat without going crazy. And instead of sucking in, I let it go. And I had a great time, even in my swimsuit.
And while I can’t live my life on a beach in Mexico, I can keep my vacation state of mind year round. My body may not be perfect, but it gave me two perfect children. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
More on Body Image:
- After Years of Self-Loathing, I Finally Made Peace with My Body
- Losing My Baby Belly Without Damaging My Daughter
- What Being Married to a Gay Guy Taught Me About My Body