Saturday, October 6

On Body Image and our Daughters

Thirty two weeks and quite round now, I have been thinking about the what I convey to our daughters about body image by the words I speak regarding pregnancy and my body in general.  I am a huge believer in the messages we speak or convey in our actions or comments having power to shape how our daughter's body images are formed.

This extends into conversations about modesty for Christian women.  We can not just tell our daughters constantly to cover up or not draw attention to themselves with their clothing and leave it at that.  They need to know that they have been created beautifully and that their bodies are so special and so precious that they are reserved for the enjoyment and appreciation of their husband one day and out of respect for our brothers and sisters, we choose to dress modestly and beautifully.

When we work in the garden, our daughters can hear how wonderful it is that God equipped them with strong arms for pulling weeds or quick hands for gathering green beans.  Legs that run or peddle a bike all the way up a hill are healthy legs.  A full plate cleared of nutritious food is a sign of a healthy appetite and a body and mind ready for a morning's busy work (I think of this now as I'm preparing a large, large breakfast to feed my crowd for a busy morning of physical work).

Morning hair may be *crazy* but never ugly and hair that is clean and fresh is lovely, and doesn't it just *feel* good to work so hard that your muscles ache and get so dirty and see so much progress on a project, bathe and then fall into a clean bed content with the day.

Isn't is amazing how God lets a mother's belly grow and grow and stretch to hold a growing baby?  I tell all of my children that soon my body will be working hard to birth their new baby.  It is made so it knows just how to do it and how to do it well - from the release of ocytoxin that begins contractions and stops bleeding as the baby nurses, to the endorphins that calm and ease the pain of birth and the adrenaline which finishes the birth without pain. It is awesome that God makes a mother's breasts able to feed her baby the best food available with all the right nutrients, no corn syrup, at just the right temperature.  There is no other substitute like it, my children know.

When I am pregnant, I do not refer to myself as fat, just *round in the middle*, or the kids and I will joke about how chubby this coming babe must be getting, as their hands poke and pat and feel across my belly.

I do not weigh myself.  Ever.  Or feel the need for my worth or self image to be determined by tracking a number each month on the scale.  I am the type of person who would take an increase in a number as a personal insult and so scales and I do not cross paths, only exception being at the midwife's office where I oblige.  If my clothes start to feel a little snug, I know I need to move more, drink more water, and eat less sweets and that is the way health, not dieting, goes.  Instead, my self image is tied up much more in how lovely I am treating others, my attitudes regarding housework and child-rearing, and whether I'm keeping Jesus first in every attitude and area of my heart.

We don't usually comment to our girls about being pretty or beautiful but instead on being lovely.  Lovely, I believe, carries a far deeper and richer connotation with it, speaking about the outward and the inward combined.  Lovely comes from a spirit of kindness, helpfulness or gentleness. Pretty can be a page in a magazine and beauty is so often photoshopped that our society has trouble discerning  it from the real thing when they see it.  In my mind, Mother Theresa was beautiful, who spent her life and body, and poured them out as an offering.  Culture and I use terminology differently and so I choose lovely to describe my daughters, a friend who calls from the grocery store to ask what she can pick up for me, women we love who are not a size 6 but are so far precious to me that lovely and beautiful just *fit* the very essence of who they are.

How about you ~ we can all point to negative things trying to manipulate and shape our children's thoughts about beauty - what positives do you see or try to instill in them?  I'd love to hear your ideas and thoughts. 
Have a beautiful Saturday morning,



Julian said...

How refreshing to see that. A persons worth or personality is not their weight,nor their looks. Society today has got it all wrong. My daughter is in highschool,and she is very much aware how other girls act and behave. Im very blessed because she sees beyond all that,and looks at the heart of people. She is struggling,but she is one of the few who dont give in just to look fashionable. She is modest,and her stand is obvious to others. I think in telling her my mistakes as a teenager to try to fit in, she was able to avoid thies things,and although its hard to stick out,thank God her convictons are strong .I think the way youre raising your daughters will not only bless,and keep them when they enter the world,but also be a testimony to others.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. My daughter is almost 4 and over the last month or so she has started this thing where everything is either for boys or for girls. She even gave her little brother her prized Goofy stuffed animal because she declared him for boys.

I'm not sure where it has come from and I'm no over concerned because I do want her to embrace femininity. However, it has made me aware that she is getting messages from different places and it is important for us to talk about them. I wouldn't want any attitude to be over done either.

Owlhaven said...

Thanks for this! I like your idea of using the word 'lovely'!


Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...


This post is wonderful and I am saying a huge AMEN!

I hate when women say they are fat when pregnant etc....

You are a wise and LOVELY Momma!


Momma Bug said...

Delightful Hannah!

Makes me smile to think of the stepping stones your daughters have. It's never about the rules or the formula, but about the heart. About Jesus; and when our gaze is fixed on Him, on His gift to us, and His amazing love for us it makes us want to love Him with everything!

Lydia said...

Thank you for this post! I really needed to hear this today.

emilyclare said...

3nfamen! this is so true and so vital for our young to learn and believe in their hearts - that their bodies are made magnificently by a Loving father, that our worth and our beauty comes from Him and allowing him to dwell in all we do. My little one is only a wee baby, but I speak to him about his body as it grows and strengthens. I love your dialogues with your children about your pregnant body - so inspiring. Blessings to you lovely lady!

p.s. I too dismiss scales and weighing myself (and obliged like you with my midwife when I was pregnant) :)

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you talked about body image while pregnant here. I am so sick of hearing pregnant women refer to themselves as fat!
I don't have children get, but I fairly often call my nieces gorgeous, or beautiful, though more as a term of endearment - "Hi, gorgeous" - but my nieces are gorgeous, inside and out! I wonder sometimes if I shouldn't comment on their looks, but since most of my conversation with them is about books or activities, I'm hoping it balances out.

Sunflower Days said...

I always say "about my daughter-in-law" that I wish she came before me if possible as I have learned so much from watching her raise our lovely four grandchildren". She announced how lovely Hannah was last week on her 9th birthday by calling her a little lady. I thought how kind and thoughtful a name for her daughter and what a lovely description. She "mothers" with such patience that I feel almost guilt beyond measure about how tough I was on my son that I gave birth to. But yet he turned out very well so I should not be so tough on myself as I always had God as my guiding light, even when I had to raise him alone. I love watching you and your husband raise your children....God is surely good!

Unknown said...

I don't know whether you haven't looked at comments yet, or whether the comment I wrote yesterday didn't work (my computer threw a tantrum)
Thank you for commenting on body image while pregnant. I am incredibly saddened by women who refer to their beautiful pregnant bellies as 'fat'.
I try to watch what I say to my nieces about looks, but I don't know how successful I am, or how much influence I have.

Anonymous said...

This was a sweet post, but I have to say it is easy for you to say these things if you are an attractive person. In our society if you aren't "pretty" you are going to have a hard time no matter how you are raised or how you feel about yourself. Not being mean just truthful(:

Anonymous said...

Great post! My daughter will be 1 next week so I'm careful to try and set a good example for her.