If you’re a reader of this blog, it’s probably no surprise that I tend to be a self-conscious person. Anxious and self-conscious, really, which is a stellar combination, let me tell you. Whether it’s a by-product of always having a curvy build no matter my weight, or that I’ve struggled with the physical side effects of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for more than a decade, I’ve never considered myself a particularly beautiful woman. Oh, I clean up pretty well when I want to, and I do have features I like (my eyebrows and amber-hazel eyes are top of that list), but it’s rare that I look in a mirror and don’t make a face. I know that’s not the best thing to admit, and I try very hard to keep the self-deprecation to a minimum when my kids are around, but for the sake of telling the truth, it is what it is. Or, I should say, it was what it was before this summer. Because this summer, my kids inadvertently gave me a lesson in being more body-positive.
Before this summer, it had been ages since I’d been in a bathing suit in public. Between the cottage-cheese thighs and the ingrown hairs I can’t ever avoid on my bikini line (feel free to send me your tips for this one), I felt like everyone on the beach or at the pool was watching me. I kept my upper arms, plagued for years by keratosis pilaris (small red acne-like bumps), covered. Add in the extra baby weight and I was a big ball of discomfort.
But here’s the thing: My kids wanted to go swimming. Sophie has always been a water baby, and Juliette’s joyful splashing is a sight to see. I suppose I could have insisted that my husband Blaine take them in the pool or the lake without me, but firstly, it’s both extremely difficult and dangerous to wrangle a three-year-old and an infant in the water on your own, and secondly, I didn’t want to miss out. For the first time I can remember, the fear of missing out trumped whatever body issues I was battling at that moment.
My emergence from my self-imposed hang-ups snowballed from there. It’s really hard to go to the zoo on a sweltering hot day in long sleeves. You risk heat stroke when you’re pushing a double stroller and not dressed appropriately for the weather. Off came the cardigan. And guess what? No one looked twice at me. Because—shocker of the century!—no one was ever looking twice at me. The same thing goes for Toronto Blue Jays games, cottage trips and even gardening in my own front yard. I wore tank tops and t-shirts and shorts (who knew I could wear shorts?!) and I played and swam and enjoyed my children.
The (rather sad) cherry on top of my summertime revelation happened just a few weeks ago, as I dressed for my grandma’s funeral. We lost her the second week in August and we buried her on a ridiculously hot day. I was wearing a sleeveless black dress, with a belt, a light scarf and heels. When I put on the jacket I intended to wear, Soph said to me, “But Mama, you look so pretty under there!” Knowing she was right, I eschewed the blazer.
When I arrived at the funeral home, one of my aunts said, “God, you look great.” Was there a single comment about my bare arms? Of course not. Because the only insults were coming from that stupid catty mean-girl inside my head, saying “You don’t measure up.” Yeah, well, guess what, lady? You’re wrong. And I won’t miss another moment of my life waiting to look better. Because even if this is as good as it gets, I’m the only one who ever noticed anyway.
Walmart Live Better editor-in-chief Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization. A lot. Now, imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie, Juliette and husband Blaine. Read all of Katie’s Type A Baby posts and follow her on Twitter @katie_dupuis.