A Love Letter to My Body

In honor of the month of love, this column will be about how much I love my body. I will start with a poem.

“Oh, body, sweet vessel of mine. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Except, that’s totally a total crock.

Like many moms out there, I stress about the appearance of my body.

My body looks nothing like it used to. Bringing two children into this world changed my body’s topography forever. The duties of motherhood limit my ability to change it back.

I don’t like having body-image issues. And, some people may argue that it’s easier than ever to love your body and all of its nuances. We’re living in the age of body positivity. One can’t make it far on social media or shop online without being slapped in the face with body inclusivity. Advertisers want me to believe I should love my body, because everyone else does. The problem is, I’m not buying it.

Rationally, I know what other people think about my body is irrelevant. I should be going through life concerned with how I conduct myself, not what I look like while doing it. But it’s not that easy. If it were, you would see masses of confident, self-possessed moms walking into every school, daycare, grocery store and office place.

But you don’t. You hear moms engaging in negative self talk. You see moms hiding our midsections. You hear us recite guilt for eating a bowl of pasta. You see women spending literally billions of dollars a year to manipulate their exteriors. We waste so much mental energy on where our fat deposits should and should not be. Our bodies are banks and our fat is transactional.

I’m exhausted with it and myself. After I give my energy to loving and nurturing my spouse, children, family, friends and myself — real life kicks in, and life doesn’t leave much room for obtaining the so-called perfect figure.

The day-to-day of modern parenting is merciless.

There are the never-ending appointments, school events, full-time jobs, tutor scheduling, grade monitoring, class projects, sport practices, music events, extracurriculars, buying the stuff for those extracurriculars, grocery shopping, house cleaning, house tidying, birthday parties, special occasions, conferences, bill paying, home maintenance, life maintenance, school-parent app monitoring, clothing shopping, banking, budgeting, following current affairs, pet care, snow shoveling, lawn care, garbage nights, laundry, meal prep, retirement planning, decluttering, volunteering, extra hours at work and whatever else ends up on plate.

In the midst of that cyclone, there isn’t much time for carefully curating my fat deposits.

So what is a mom to do?

How do we rise up and stop caring about ridiculous beauty standards?

I don’t know that we can, but we can allow ourselves to feel two contradictory things at the same time. We have to thrive in the face of bodily contradictions. We have to acknowledge the beauty standards we don’t meet and also acknowledge our own beauty.

So, to all the mothers out there who are struggling with body image right now, I offer you this love letter to my body.

Dear Momma,

Today, you went to the doctor and held back tears when you stepped on the scale. You’ve been working hard and the number that registered was even higher than it was at your last appointment. You spend so much time worrying about that number, about the softness of your middle, about the dimples in your thighs, about the tightness of your clothes, about how you have let yourself go.

But there are so many reasons to love your body. The way it ushers your children through busy parking lots. The way it leads your kids on a woodland trail. The way it carries heavy groceries into the house. The way it shoots hoops with the kids. The way it can paddle a tandem kayak when the child in front of you can’t paddle. The way it can lift bags of rock salt or cat litter. The way it braids hair and hauls wood. The way it makes delicious food. The way it keeps a home and a job.

And it’s not just the practical things your body can do that make it so beautiful. Your body is capable of magic. By offering hugs when they are needed most, it’s a safe haven from the aggressions in this world. When you sit it next to your kids, they delight in its presence. When courage is needed, a simple hand on a shoulder can be enough to help your children move the mountains that obstruct them. Your voice can guide, reposition, soothe and heal. When was the last time you fathomed the magic of your body?

Maybe it doesn’t look like it did when you were 20, but it wasn’t so accomplished then. Your body was thin and strong, but it couldn’t move mountains for others or heal their emotional wounds. Perhaps, you should raise your beauty standards. Perhaps you should admire and reflect on all of the hard work, dedication and love it took to make your body as beautiful as it is today.

Maybe you need to believe that others see that beauty too. The only energy your body deserves is self love. And, you should be able to love something that is undeniably beautiful.