How Being a Mom Has Given Me
More Confidence as a Woman
Summertime is a wonderful season. The sunshine and warm temperatures mean my boys are eager for picnics, exploring parks, being outside morning until night, chasing fireflies, and playing in water whenever and wherever they can (Oh, look! A puddle!!! What? What do you mean, “Good clothes?”)
Of course, water and swimming mean swimsuits, which is fine when you’re a 2-year-old or 5-year-old kid. They’d be fine without changing into any swim appropriate attire (see “Puddle” above) or completely nude, if allowed (mine are not). But once most of us hit a certain age, maybe late tweens or early teens, swimwear, along with our outward appearance overall, become kind of a big deal, or rather, a big ordeal.
Now I know that there are those special few who are graced with a self-confidence impervious to mean kids or expectations of physical perfection promoted by the media. Kudos to them! I was never one of them. As a teenager and younger adult, I struggled with accepting how I looked, how I wanted to look, and the disparity between the two. And of course, doing what I could to help the situation.
I did not leave the house without my hair fixed or my makeup on. When anyone was coming over to my house, I was ready. Only people who I really knew or trusted, such as family or very close friends, have ever seen me bare-faced or flat-haired. I even had myself all presentable when I gave birth to my boys.
I never had too much of an issue with my weight or my body itself because I stayed active enough and was blessed with good genetics and a healthy metabolism. However, I did watch my diet and tried to exercise to ensure that it never was an issue.
Even marrying the sweetest, most adoring man, one who will adamantly proclaim my beauty and perfection to the world, hasn’t completely changed my self-esteem. He could tell me I’m pretty as I am, and I’d think, “That’s because you love me. Other people don’t.”
Then I had babies. If you think that made me feel better about myself physically, you’d be wrong, at least initially. Was I proud of what my body was able to do (with God’s help and divine design) when I carried and naturally delivered my babies? Absolutely. It was amazing. Precious. Miraculous.
But babies – They can wreak some havoc. Not only do you face weight gain, stretch marks, different boobs, and the knowledge that your body will never be exactly as it was before, but caring for a little one often means sleepless nights and shower-less days, among other things. Not many new mamas go around feeling super beautiful and attractive, at least not most days. As the children get a little older, the time you get to spend on yourself is still less and harder won than before the sweeties were in the picture.
But we love them in the picture. We do. We would never change that picture now. And so slowly, we grow accustomed to a new standard of what is acceptable in order to feel pretty and confident. (When you’ve not shaved in who knows how long, finally doing so is like a whole spa day!)
With more to worry about in our lives than some random stranger’s opinion of us, we can start to relax our comparisons of ourselves to others. When we start to focus on the little people who we love so much, we spend less time focused on ourselves. That’s very freeing.
Then came this summer, and we got invited to a water park to celebrate my nephew’s fourth birthday.
First thought – water equals swimsuits. However, I’m fine with rocking the swim shorts and tankini after a few summers as a parent because I have two boys to keep up with, and I don’t want to be readjusting everything each time I move. I’ve learned that, as a mom, sometimes I need to be quicker than I am cute. Just like heels don’t work at the park, a more revealing, more-likely-to-move-around swimsuit isn’t practical for me. Plus, this suit is good to cover up those areas that have…um…changed since having children. It’s still a cute suit, though, so I can feel confident in it.
However, when I’m out and about, I dislike getting totally wet because of my hair and makeup hang-ups. My hair doesn’t look great wet. I mean, I know most people don’t look great with wet hair. Very few people come out of the water looking like the Little Mermaid, with that backlit flip of her gorgeous red locks that fall beautifully into place. Nope. We look like drowned rats. Or raccoons, if we’ve worn too much waterproof mascara, which is generally more water-resistant than waterproof. A tired mom with under-eye circles doesn’t need anything else darkening that area.
That’s why I usually let my husband do the heavy water stuff with my guys when we’re out in public. (You can’t put children in water without getting soaked.) I can better take pictures that way, too. However, for this particular day, he had to work.
It would just be me with my two boys. I knew what that meant – it was either all or nothing.
If I didn’t enter in to that day whole-heartedly and abandon my concerns with how I would look, especially when it was over, my boys might have an okay day, but none of us would have an awesome day.
The morning of our adventure, I made a decision: vanity and self-consciousness were not going to keep me from enjoying my boys and their day to the absolute fullest. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, styled my bangs knowing they would be flat and parted by day’s end, and only applied foundation because of its high SPF (this pale girl burns easily).
Now makeup and hair styles may not be a difficulty for you. You may be able to flaunt your natural beauty without a second thought. But all of us have some area of vulnerability, something that we keep covered up rather than being completely, truly who we are. We fear judgment, rejection, or people misunderstanding us.
Fear, though, is a thief. It’s a lie. And it’s not of God. His Word clearly tells us that “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Does this mean that my fear of what people think of me, or any fear, is the end of my Christian walk? No, it just makes me human, and should, honestly, push me closer to God. Where else can I find my true worth and value? I’m important enough to Him that “every day of my life was recorded in (His) book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16) I can come to Him, baring my heart and completely stripped of pretense, with whatever vulnerability or flaw and find grace, love, healing, and acceptance. God knows who He created me to be, and by resting in His love for me (and that of my husband and boys), I can continue to become confident and free in who that is.
At the water park, I felt naked at first, aware of my less-than-my-standard appearance, but once we got to the park, and my boys saw the water, I knew being “bare” for them would be worth it. They didn’t care what I looked like as long as I was with them. And I didn’t really care what I looked like, as long as I was with them. I only hesitated for a second when my 5-year-old pulled me up onto the big kids’ giant play area, where water showers down continuously from all over, and you have no hope of coming out of it as anything less than drenched. I took a deep breath and dove through the torrent, holding onto my laughing, loving little boy’s hand as we headed to a water slide.
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Photos courtesy of my sister-in-law, Carrie. Feature image courtesy of pixabay.