Motherhood

A Mother’s Body

A Mother's Body

This summer, Toby and Anton have been sharing a bed, and when I put them to sleep, I’ll climb right in the middle. We’ll sing songs and tell stories, and the funny thing is, Toby and Anton each like to take one of my upper arms and squeeze. Because they’re comforting and… squishy?

At first, I was like, oh, my arms, they should be more muscular. Probably not ideal for them to double as a squeeze toy or pillow! But my second thought was, how sweet that the boys love my arms. They don’t judge anything; they just feel my essence. They love lying next to their mama in the dark, listening to her sing “Edelweiss” slightly off key and squeeze-squeeze-squeezing her arms.

Whenever I wake up in the morning, no matter how bleary-eyed I look, my boys just see my smiling face and bear hugs and offer of banana pancakes. They don’t see my dark undereye circles, they see my glowing, endless adoration of them.

I remember a comment from reader named Sadie: “My three-year-old was sitting next to me the other day, reached over, patted my belly, and said absentmindedly, ‘You’re just a big ol’ mama. Biiiiig ooooool’ maaaaaamaa.’ The way he said it, it sounded like the best thing in the world.”

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about her body image. She told me: “Sometimes I look at my daughter and think, Oh my god, she has my thighs, that poor girl. She has my big feet and my huge hands and these things that I always saw as being less than perfect. But she’s so completely beautiful to me. I love everything about her, including her thighs. Seeing myself through that lens helps me see my own body more kindly. All that unconditional love, how can it not extend to me, too?”

What do you see of yourself in your kids? Do they have your smile? Eyes? Athleticism? Do you feel beautiful around your children?

P.S. Wise words to remember, and why children cover their eyes while hiding.

(Photo by Amanda O’Donoughue.)

  1. I appreciate everything about your blog…. your transparency, honesty and sense of self worth… we all need a bit more of that in our lives, so thank you for that!! Check out my blog at RecoveryLoveAndCare.com to follow my story, inspirations and journey of eating disorder recovery! Living for life, love, and self care!

  2. Sarah says...

    I just feel v.happy to be a healthy mum. Had a couple of friends who have passed away leaving young children. Yes, I have saggy boobs and a wobbly tummy. I also have 2 healthy children and am a happy mum.

  3. Wonderful post. I don’t always feel beautiful around my children but I do feel strong. Strong for having carried them for 9 (+!) months. Strong for delivering them. Strong for being able to lift them now, push them in the stroller, carry them in the baby carrier. My younger is a girl, and having a daughter makes me very aware about negative self-talk. I never EVER want her to hear me say anything negative about my appearance, so I just don’t ever say anything negative about my appearance. I would feel heart-broken if she ever said anything bad about the way she looked; that would break my heart. I figure I better lead by example. The absence of negative self talk has had a positive effect on the way I feel about myself :)

  4. This is so true. I’ve always thought I had chunky legs and chubby little hands, but my baby has them too. I see myself in his little thighs and pudgy little fingers. And I think he is just so adorable. And it has made me so much more forgiving of my supposed ‘flaws’. They’re not really. I’m just me. And it’s ok! :)

  5. Ania says...

    I’m not a mum, even though I’d love to be one! :) I so much agree with what you say about bodies and how they can be loved unconditionally. Thinking of my own body and how it’s been changing recently, I’ve realized that the bodies that I’ve loved to hug and be close too were/are far from perfect by today’s standards, like the bodies of my grandmas or my own mother, wiggly, dry, with no make up or other so called beauty enhancers. My both grandmas are dead now but I still remember the touch of their ‘imperfect’ bodies. Lovely post. Thank you.

  6. Amy G says...

    I definitely needed this post. I have never been thin, and have spent most of my adult life 30 lbs heavier than I’d like. After 2 kids in 2.5 years, I still have quite a bit of “fluff,” and have even been asked if I was expecting recently :/
    My 5 year old has recently started to notice differences between bodies, most of them innocent and sweet (“Dada, has hairy legs, but not sister!” “Mama’s feet are bigger than mine, etc) One of his remarks that he likes to repeat is “Mama, your belly is so wiggly!” Of course, he usually chooses an inopportune time, like when I’m cooking dinner or bending over to get laundry out of the dryer. My first response was to scold him, out of my own embarrassment and shame. I have been thinking about this response a lot recently. And I waver between wanting him to know that we should always talk about other people’s bodies with kindness (and maybe that people don’t want their differences pointed out) and realizing that I don’t want him to inherit my own hang-ups about my body. It’s such a fine line!
    I have made a promise to myself to embrace his comments about my wiggly, jiggly parts, because I know that he *is* saying them with kindness, and with love. And I have also promised to make sure we talk about bodies (our own and others) always with kindness, love and ultimately the respect of the body’s owner and preference.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Jo!

  7. J says...

    I had my first baby four months ago, and I got Bell’s palsy at the start of my third trimester. I’ve always been healthy, so it was completely unexpected and really devastated me for the last few months. It has since improved, but I still have a lot of obvious paralysis in my face, making it hard to talk and smile. When my sweet baby first started noticing things and really looking up at me, I was so panicked about him seeing his mommy with a half-face that I would just turn and hide my face away and cry. I just felt so sad that I couldn’t give him a real smile and let him know how happy he made me. Thank you for reminding me that appearance won’t really matter, and I can still show my love for him the way I am now.

  8. Thank you. Thank your for sharing this. My daughter (whom we affectionately call Sweet T), has recently started squeezing my arm fat… it’s pretty cute. & funny. & absolutely endearing.

  9. Alex says...

    I’m thankful that you, Joanna, and so many women talk openly and positively about this topic. However, I struggle to fully embrace my postpartum look because I know that I, not my babies or anyone else, am responsible for the ugly skin I live in now. I’ll explain. I’ve always been slender, 5’7″/110 lbs/32AA, and when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I went hog-wild with my food intake, consuming more than 3000 calories a day from about week 16 until I delivered at 42 weeks. I gained 65 pounds in total. I have angry stretch marks across my butt and wrinkled droopy skin over my whole stomach that I can grab and pull out three inches from my body. From most of the comments and articles I read throughout various blogs and female-centric forums (Cup of Jo, Mother Mag, Scary Mommy, friends’ social media, etc.), women seem to embrace their pregnancy ‘scars’ as a new form of beauty because they can see that their souvenirs on their body represent the beautiful babies they formed and carried for 10 months. But when I look at my leftover pregnancy reminders (which I try to do as rarely as possible), all I see is a stupid young woman who foolishly ate her way through a pregnancy and has no one to blame but herself for the ugly mess across her abdomen that came from the 65 pounds gained, not from the baby who was innocently living beneath the fat.

    • Alex, I’m right there with you. I’ve never had to deal with weight issues… but I got married, & went through a LOT of hormone issues & depression. Then (finally!) got pregnant, & ate my way through the pregnancy. Now my belly flaps over my low-rise jeans. It’s hard to love & accept myself… but I know I did it to myself. I’m going to the gym & seeing body improvements in other areas.

      I don’t normally comment on someone else’s comment… but yours… was like listening to myself. We’re NOT alone! :-)

    • Alex says...

      Thanks Kate. I often feel like I’m the only one who isn’t on the “let’s love our postpartum selves!” train. I’d really like to be on it, but it doesn’t feel fair for me to participate in that rhetoric when I know what could have been if I hadn’t been so thoughtless. If I had been kinder to/ more conscious of the abuse I was doing to my body, I’m sure I would be able to be proud of what I look like now. (And I feel confident saying “I’m sure” because I feel that way about my boobs! Haha. I nursed two babies with them and they will never be the same but I don’t care and I’m proud of them for what they accomplished:)

  10. Wendy says...

    Great post! I prayed my yet unborn daughter would inherit her Daddy’s sister’s long legs, blonde hair and blue eyes. Being half Portuguese and Canadian French myself it was just a dream. Well, my now 15 year old daughter is 5’9 all legged golden goddess.

  11. Torrey says...

    My 3 year old son endearingly refers to my back-side as a “squishy bum”. He doesn’t mean it as an insult and it has never crossed his mind that it could be an offensive term. That’s just how he sees my bum – squishy (and he’s not wrong). :)

    I remember as a kid squeezing my own mother’s arms. She was so soft and easy to cuddle, the world’s best pillow! I still feel that way about my mom and even as an adult love to snuggle up with her when I’m needing some extra comfort.

  12. Hi Jo, thank you, I love this post! I have a 9-month baby girl and already, so many times, I was in that place of feeling like your friend who said, “all this unconditional love, how can it not extend to me, too?”

    All that unconditional love, why not extend it to myself too?

    I stumbled on this recently. A Dove video: how your girls feel about her beauty starts with how you feel about yours.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqknd1ohhT4

  13. I love what your friend said about seeing herself in her daughter’s body. I can totally relate to that. I’ve been a bigger girl all my life, and when I see my daughter I can’t help but feel scared for her because I do not want her to be teased. Though at the same time so many people tell me “your daughter is so beautiful”–then I think to myself well if she looks like me..Does that mean I am beautiful too? To be honest, the word beautiful has never been synonymous to me. My husband tells me now, but it is still hard to accept after going through most of my life never being told that. Though seeing myself through my daughter eyes and how people see her, I realize she is a part of me, and we are both beautiful.

    xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  14. Robin says...

    My three year old has taken to saying (unprompted, multiple times a day), “you’re so pretty, mama.” I don’t think it relates too closely to my actual appearance but it warms my heart. Kids are the best.

  15. Susan says...

    my daughters are both clones of me and it is impossible not to see that I must therefore be beautiful too. It has made me totally cool living in my own skin. It’s funny though, I look exactly like my mother too but she never gained any strength of self esteem from it because she ” has red hair” and apparently that erases everything 😜

  16. K L says...

    This pulls at my heart from so many directions.. Thank you, Joanna and commenters, for making me feel better about my mombod. All the goals I had for my physical appearance after pregnancy are now out the window It took a long time for me to accept what I considered as my limitations… lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of sleep! (My son is now 16 mo.) Expectations can be a powerful weapon to crush self-esteem. I’m thankful that this conversation is taking place; the whole world needs to know how important it is to be true to yourself, strive for self-awareness and most of all, love oneself as much as we love our littles.

  17. The female form is a divine machine no matter the imperfections it may inhabit postpregnancy, puberty or a well-lived life. This story makes me even prouder to be the mother of three girls. Brava!

  18. Mirella says...

    When I became a mother, I made a decision to love my body unconditionally. It is an intention I set every day. When negative thoughts creep in, I shut them down as fast as I can because my daughters are watching. The external world will tell them that they are not enough, but I refuse to be a part of that. I’m also an eating disorder therapist so that helps in grounding me all the more. It is sadness and anger that often drives me. Why are our bodies a battleground? Why is it that no matter who we are and what we accomplish that we have been tricked to believe that our self-worth should be so deeply connected to the physical. Riots not diets!

  19. km says...

    As a woman who just hit the 39 year mark with two toddlers (and a past eating disorder in my teens and early 20s), I don’t spend much time looking at my body – I’m fit with a lil’ belly pudge, my small boobs droop a bit now, my upper arms feel a little more jiggly than I remember, but none of it phases me. Life flies too quickly with kids, and I’m looking out (at my girls and my husband, at my home and my work, at my friends and my relationships); there’s no time to look in with worry and self-initiated criticism.

    A friend told me years ago (in our late 20s) “we’re never gonna look this good again”, and it’s true – every year it changes, so enjoy what you have now.

  20. Kate says...

    This is beautiful, don’t you just love how children see the world and the people around them? My 19 month old loves to lift my shirt and prod my stretched out mommy belly button – that way because he was a 4kg whopper and my poor belly button didn’t stand a chance :) Now that I am pregnant again and sick as a dog, he pats my back and says Mama mama comfortingly while I’m getting sick. I wish I was more like him.

  21. With every second that I spend with my children I can’t help but love them even more, with all their “perfect imperfections”, and due to their unconditional love, I learned to accept my body as it is. It was not an easy process, especially after I had my twins, but I kept in mind that I have a loving family and I want to give my best for them!

  22. Ashley Tian says...

    My Piper squeezes “the fat arm” and has done so since nursing. She squeezed my mom being bottle fed and now sqeueezes it even in sleep for comfort. I wouldn’t trade it fit anything!

  23. Made me teary. Thanks for this.

  24. Tricia says...

    I am melting at your words!! I know it won’t be easy, I know it won’t always be so rosy… But I can’t wait to be a mother.

    • I’m with you, Tricia :)

      I see pregnant mamas absentmindedly rubbing their big bellies as they talk at the dinner table or wait in line to pay for groceries, and it makes me ache in the very best way. I can’t wait.

  25. Capucine says...

    I feel the opposite of many of the women here. I had many miscarriages and a view of my body as a place of death for all I hoped for in life seeped in. I felt perhaps my soul itself was flawed to create such a failed body. I have two children, and I am deeply pleased they take entirely after their other parent physically. I could care less how pudgy my body became, knowing that cost was nothing to me just to have them – really knowing, not just thinking it. I didn’t consciously think about my body as flawed, but now years later I can see what happened to me in that dark tunnel of loss.

    When my second child was one, my New Year’s resolution was to be a good sport about being photographed. I have held that line ever since; raising my chin into the challenge of being recorded as I am. It was a nadir for me physically, in a lifetime of being unphotogenic, so it was a significant shift to allow the cameras around me. I don’t look at the photos generally, I admit, but I allow them to exist and pretend to be a good sport in the taking. My ambivalence about myself is what was showing on film, and it looked like it was about my kids…I couldn’t have that be what felt true to them later, so I allowed myself to smile my love for them and never mind the body I wish I had. It has worked well, lots of peace now.

    • Cg says...

      This. Inspiring.

  26. Kelsey says...

    I used to do that to my mom, she always gave the best hugs (and still does!) and while she used to complain about putting on weight after having me (even when I was way little), I would always tell her that she was perfect for hugs and I wouldn’t want her to be less squishy. I always wanted her to see herself how I saw her! Perfectly built for hugs! Thank you for this post!

  27. Allegra says...

    “But she’s so completely beautiful to me. I love everything about her, including her thighs. Seeing myself through that lens helps me see my own body more kindly. All that unconditional love, how can it not extend to me, too?”

    I’m not even a mother and this is still so beautiful and touching to me.

  28. Noras says...

    my now 4 years daughter liked to rub her face on my wobbly tummy when she was 18 months. She used to ask for jelly belly coddle!

  29. Now that I have a daughter, I love my body for the first time ever. I never want her to feel badly about her body, and to love and respect herself for her alone. My husband and I want to instill athleticism anf challenge, but not for body image but for fun and strength. Wish us luck!

  30. Liz says...

    I see purity and adoration in my daughter (2) and son’s (1 mo.) eyes each time I look at them. Their innocence of our critical world has erased my personal, daily critique of my body. And my husband rolls his eyes anytime I make a comment about my “squishy” belly. “You’re an amazing momma,” he’ll say.

    We are all amazing mommas!

  31. Vivian says...

    This is possibly the best and sweetest entry I have read on this blog. <3

  32. Tricia says...

    I just LOVE this. I have become so much more accepting and compassionate towards my own body since having kids. First of all, HOLY COW, this body made two amazing humans. Respect. Second of all, my kids are so completely loving and view my body as a source of comfort and connection. One of my fondest hopes is that all women, mothers and not, can come to the realization that our bodies are amazing and worthy of love.

  33. Jessica says...

    This post and these comments should be a book! I so vividly remember my very thin mom’s upper arms. The area just under her biceps was so incredibly soft and ‘wiggly’. I can conjure up the feeling of that skin and love it so much. Now as I see my own skin drooping and my babies snuggling upon it I know I’ll be their soft mama and I’m working hard to be happy about it.

  34. I think things get a bit tougher as your precious baby hits the terrible teens. They definetly become a lot more critical and embarassed of your body and appearance. I have 2 teen boys, who generally do not notice what I wear, but know friends with daughters who do say cruel and hurtful things to their Mum. My upper arms are now refered to as “memory foam” by my eldest and I’m pretty sure he is looking for a rise out of me and this is not a term of endearment!

  35. Frannie says...

    My little girl has my strong legs, my upturned nose, and my crooked smile. I never loved those things until I saw them on her. She’s so beautiful and so perfect, how can I not love them about myself? I love your friend’s quote about unconditional love and I so get it. I’ve always said I’m a physical mother- I love the feel of my little girl in my arms- her strong arms and her cute little rear end. There’s a physicality to being a mother that I never understood before. She- like you and may others have said- takes great comfort in being next to my body and I love that relationship. I can feel her relax as she melts into me at the end of a long day- what a wonderful thing!

  36. Ha, my son loves to squeeze my upper arm too. We have a ritual – read story, turn off light, he lays on my arm, then I pull it out from under him and he squeezes it and usually pushes his lips against it as he’s hugging it. Then I turn on my side and slowly as he falls asleep I’ll slip out of bed. When I’m busy he’ll say “I didn’t get to snuggle your arm!” like its some horrible crime! so cute. he has the same shape for the bottom of his nose, and my feet (such hard to trim baby nails), and he walks on his toes like I did as a child (though my father stopped me by pushing me down hard every time he noticed) – and for like a year I couldn’t figure out why all his shoes were cracking right across the pad part…then finally a lightbulb went off. Many years ago I read an interview with Jennifer Garner and she said she always hated her dimples till her daughter had them…and how much nicer the things we hate look on our kids.

  37. Alex says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

    Growing up, my mom could be a little shy about her body but excelled at telling her three daughters how beautiful they were. We were all built differently so she pointed out specifics… “you have your dads perfectly strong calves,” to one sister; “you have you grandmothers cheekbones,” to my other. When it came to me, she knew early on that I got her thighs. I’m not sure she was thrilled about that, and perhaps felt a bit guilty for passing those on (I’ll have to ask), but now, when I meet people who grew up with her, they knew instantly that I am hers. I hope it’s because of both her looks and her spirit. And I’m quite proud to have her thighs because she never knew how beautiful they were.

  38. It’s been too long since I’ve spent some time on Cup of Jo. Loved this piece so so so very much.

    xo

  39. Lindsay says...

    I love this. My 6-year old recently overheard me complaining about how I looked in a photo. He got really quiet and then said “Mom, the only picture you look bad in is if you’re not in it.” So sweet.

    • Meredith says...

      Absolutely precious

  40. Brittany says...

    Even at the age of 26, there is nothing like a hug from my mom. :)

  41. Kay Lynn says...

    I read this and the comments last night when I couldn’t sleep. I loved it all but didn’t quite get the arm-squishing. Six hours later, my three-year-old bounded into our bed with an adoring “Mommmmmm!!!” She laid next to me on the pillow, snuggled up and…. squished my arm! Too funny.

  42. Melissa says...

    Oh, what a sweet post! My 2 year old granddaughter overheard me saying to her mama that my 63 year old upper arms were getting “icky.” Since then, when she is cuddling with me — and sometimes just out of the blue — she’ll squeeze my bare upper arms just like your boys do yours. But she says “icky ahhhms” and laughs and laughs! I hope she always remembers my icky ahhhms.

  43. Ana says...

    I love this. My 3-y-o kisses my belly anytime he gets the chance. I also kisses my legs, my eyes and gives the best hugs. Everything I feel about myself changes during those brief seconds, when I know there is only unconditional love when he looks at me.
    The 13-y-o however, has already started to ask me change from shorts and t-shirts when we go out. I don’t know exactly how to deal with that, but it hurts a lot.

  44. Ellen says...

    The other day, my 3 year old hugged me, smiled with his eyes closed and said with a sigh: “you are so soft!”. He made my day :)

  45. Katie says...

    I remember my mother’s breasts (a little less than perky after nursing 6 children) always being a comforting spot to rest my head during a hug. Her beautiful, slightly vascular hands have always struck me as having a particularly ‘maternal’ quality to them, though I’m not sure I can pinpoint what that is. Perhaps they seem motherly because they belong to my mother. I often wonder if my hands will take on that quality some day.

    • Capucine says...

      Your comment resonated with me. My mother’s hands stood out for me even as a child as symbolic of her motherhood; they were a mother’s hands, in the deepest meaning of ‘mother’. All a mother was, stood for, was articulated in her hands for me.

  46. Sara says...

    Nothing has made me more kind to myself than being a Mom. I don’t want either of my kids to grow up detesting their bodies like I did. The way I love every inch of them has helped me to see myself in a new way, with more grace and more patience and more love. I’m so grateful to both of them for teaching me self-love.

  47. I have gained so much weight. I have to admit that I might have let myself go with the bouts of depression that I had late last year. But my son… my son just loves kissing me even when my face is full of scars from pimples from before. Loive hugging my body that is now soft. Kid’s love is just the most pure isnt it? Seeing what you are physically. This is such alovely read.

  48. I don’t have children but this made me tear up! I thought about my mom and how beautiful and perfect she has always been and still is to me. Love the truth and beauty to see ourselves through those same eyes. Lovely post, Joanna!

  49. Kelly says...

    When she was just an infant, my daughter started to lift my shirt and put her hands on my belly whenever she got the chance. Now that she’s three, she’s busy extending her reach Into the world and doesn’t do it very often. But when she does, the world stops spinning for a moment. I don’t see the doughy remains of two pregnancies and a few too many chocolate chip cookies, but pure love and a connection unlike any other. I still have my moments, but she has helped me to realize that my body is so much more than what it looks like.

  50. Aisya says...

    I follow your site since it’s in blogspot
    I have a three y.o lovely daughter. When I’m home from work,I always change clothes in our bedroom. often my child seeing me changing, and she always touching my fluffy tummy (my weight decreasing but not my belly) and squish it with laughter, she like it a lot, eventhough I still have that stretchy belly. So it feel like she knew that she’s been in my belly for nine months and she loves it :)
    Thanks all for sharing this, so I don’t feel down for not having back my old body before the pregnancy, hehe

    • I love this, so sweet. Thank you for sharing this!

  51. Anna says...

    What a beautiful post! And so true! My son loves the rather large nose I spent my teens and 20s agonising over…his love and jokes and fresh perspective has totally changed how I think about myself. Now I love my nose! :-)

  52. eleanore frank-cisneros says...

    I love this post so much. I think about this often, I have a bright eyed/ whip smart almost 3-year old daughter and I know she soaks up all of what I say and do. When I was a little girl I remember so often my mother asking me “does this make me look fat?” (and it rarely did, she was petite!), and always making other disparaging comments about her body. She had such a complicated relationship with food, with her body, with her self-worth– and they were all tied together. I remember as a feminist teenager telling her “I don’t want to talk about your body, or my body, or anybody’s body!” It was/is so pervasive and definitely undermined my own love and acceptance of my body and I think it contributed to a kind of disconnect for a long while for me. After pregnancy, giving birth (at home with a midwife), 2+ years of nursing, getting sick for a year (autoimmune issues)/healing, and all of the beautiful trials my body has endured, I do nothing but speak with wonder and awe, praise for both functionality and form/acceptance about my body, other’s bodies, and my daughter’s body. I started letting people photograph me more, and talking less about the way it all looks— more about the way it Feels, and how well it works and helps us to achieve things. I think it is okay for her to know that some days we get frustrated with our bodies, but to know that those feelings will pass. I hope that she has a much better relationship with her body than I did, or my mother did. I see so much of me in her sensitivity, sense of mischief and curiosity– I wonder and wish for her to keep all of those things, but with the kind of confidence of someone untethered by self-consciousness.

  53. My daughter is 6… one morning she came in while I was about to get in the shower. We were chit-chatting for a minute before she looked at me and said, “Mommy, you have a big belly. You have squishy legs!” I was momentarily embarrassed…like super self-conscious, but I didn’t want her to feel like that about her body. I swallowed really hard, laughed and said, “Well my belly is because of you and your brothers, but the legs are jiggly because Mommy eats too many Oreos!” She laughed so hard and said, “You’re so pretty!” I was floored…and a smidge relieved. We often don’t see ourselves the way others see us…especially our kids. They love every jiggly, squishy, muscular or lean part of us.

  54. Kerrie says...

    My 3-year-old son is not usually super cuddly — except when sitting in the front of a grocery cart, for some reason. (I think he loves the one-on-one time without baby sister around.) When we were shopping yesterday, he laid his head on my chest and said, “Mom, I love your body. I love all your parts … on the outside.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.

    • Kerrie says...

      For context, I should probably add that my son has also described me as “soft,” which is pretty accurate :)

  55. Amy says...

    This is lovely. I’m a tall slim build and often my girls will be like “whoa mum looks like a baby’s in your tummy! You have a big belly mom!” and I laugh. You’re right, kids have a different perspective of us. I remember looking back in a photo of my dad holding me as a baby and looking at his face- once I looked at that photo when I was much older I saw the insane under eye circles and exhaustion all over his face. I would have never noticed as a child until I was a parent myself!

  56. Keri says...

    I always had an affectionate snuggly relationship with my mom. Some of my favorite memories are of cuddling with her in my twenties, which became more poignant as she suffered and eventually died of cancer. Now that I have my own toddler son, it’s been healing for me to cuddle with him. I understand and love my mom more becoming a mom myself. There have been many quiet tears while holding him while he slept.

  57. Alice says...

    A mother’s body is a shared body!

    Pregnancy and post-pregnancy, both times, I felt the grip of chasing an ideal body escaping, and a want for strength that can support my boys take its place. My eldest was too young to understand pegnancy entirely when I was expecting our second, but he loved my belly, watching it jiggle when we danced, and blowing raspberries on it – still does, and on his baby brother. I love the physical intimacy and freedom you described in your post, and foster the same in our house, I think my childhood could’ve done with a bit more of that.

    I really try, with all kids, to compliment what they can do with their bodies, rather than how they look. And so my 2yr old usually says stuff like ‘wow, mama jump really really high!’ or ‘mama lift biiiiiiiiiiig box!’. It makes me feel like wonderwoman!

  58. I love this, it’s just oh so true. My daughter loves snuggling with Mama the most and always in the back of my mind think it’s because I’m the squishiest of the two of us. Recently we’ve tried practicing more grace with ourselves and this is a great way to do that.

    Erin, Attention to Darling
    http://www.attentiontodarling.com

  59. Beth says...

    What a perfect and beautiful post. I teared up when reading it thinking of my own boys and their unconditional love of my “mom essence” too. Thank you for articulating it so well.

  60. cgw says...

    I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective on the mom body:
    I have (managed) lupus, miscarried when I was 10 weeks pregnant, and weeks later I suffered a PE in m right lung. I was hospitalized for a week, I’m on various medication indefinitely. The medications have altered my body/hormones/metabolism, and with it came weight gain. Because of all this, I became a mom through international adoption. My lovely daughter is now 11 years old, a couple of years ago, when she was about 9 she put an arm around me, poked me gently in the stomach with one finger and said “You’re so squishy! Why are you so squishy?” Initially my heart dropped because I couldn’t even say (as many other commenters have) that I was squishy because I had carried her in my tummy. In essence, I didn’t even have that excuse, and nor use the excuse of blaming my meds. I quickly swallowed my pride and told her I was squishy because it was all the love that I had for her. All that I had to offer her was that I had become comfortable in my life, a life that included our little family. Do I love my body? Not all the time. Could I stand to lose a few pounds? Absolutely. But I remind myself that there was a time when I could potentially die at 33, and now at 46, in the end, being a little squishy is worth it if it means I am able to see my daughter grow.

    • This is astonishly beautiful. Thank you.

  61. Fiona says...

    My son , who is nearly 7, has always loved my tummy. When he was really wee, he would park his feet there while I was feeding him (he has to really contort to fit them there now, but still tries sometimes!). These days he says my smell lives there and that he thinks it is the best smell ever. Sometimes if (like today when I dropped him off at a day camp) he feels insecure, he will come over for a big sniff – to give him some strength I guess! I just wish I could smell it! : )

  62. Juliet says...

    I love this post. Thank you for reminding me that the affection that our kids have for us is pure and honest. So beautiful.

  63. Amy says...

    I am not a mom but in high school I babysat for a family and I developed a close bond with the children. I can remember so clearly when one of them said to me, “how come you don’t have big boobs like mommy?” I’m very flat chested and by that time I was pretty insecure about it. Initially I was upset, I couldn’t believe even a child noticed how small my breasts were!, but then she smiled real big and said, “who needs boobs anyway? They’re always in the way.” I thought to myself, “wow.”

  64. Kristin says...

    I’m holding my own pretty good but my 3 year old son grabs my belly flab and says “Mommy’s Play-Doh” Lol. He also tells me frequently, “I love your belly”. :)

  65. My (4 year old) son likes to drive matchbox cars on me while I’m attempting to close my eyes for a second. He always stops, pats a breast or two and says “mommy, these are in the way!”
    My two year old girl thinks everything is so pretty. “Momma, your pony tail so pretty!” Kids are so funny. I honestly never think about the way I look around them.

  66. This is beautiful and makes me reconsider so many things.

    Personal question for all you extended breastfeeding mamas out there: after weaning, did your breasts ever regain their “inner substance”? I remember a line from the movie “This is Forty” where Leslie Mann says her kids “sucked the meat right out of them”! I wouldn’t trade the nursing experience for anything (it’s wonderful in so many ways) but just wondering, and the internet is all kinds of crazy on this subject (so many anti-breastfeeding comments and cloaked plastic surgery ads!)

    • Dalia says...

      All my friends keep talking about their boobs being “pancakes” after weaning and I never noticed my own because I nursed for 24 months then was pregnant, then nursing and only now I can sorta see what my friends were talking about. it’s been a month since my baby self weaned and I am sure my breast will get some more bounce back and if they don’t I’ll just have to invest in a good bras!

    • Susan says...

      I have a 12 year old son and ten year old boy/ girl twins. I nursed them all for over a year. Initially mine may have felt different, but yes, they have gone back to normal. In fact pre pregnancy I was a 32 c and I was recently fitted for a 34 dd.

    • Sierra says...

      Yes they go back! I remember just after weaning how flat and lifeless they seemed, and I thought they would stay like that, but they’re pretty much back to normal now. It took a while though, maybe a year after weaning??

    • Anna says...

      Don’t worry! They do go back to normal – it just takes a bit of time. I breastfed for 15 months and my breasts completely changed (I had always been a D cup, but after breastfeeding was an A!). It took maybe a year but eventually they changed back to their “original state”, just to how they had looked pre baby.

    • My son nursed till he was almost 4 and mine went back to normal. Its actually not the nursing the flattens them but specific hormones during pregnancy and just affects people differently, is what I’ve read. My sister, who didn’t nurse more than a month due to health issues, complained how much nursing changed her breasts and I could NOT figure out what she was talking about. We are our own worst critic and what we see is rarely seen by others.

    • Can I just say how grateful I am for this amazing community of women? Thank you to each of you who shared and answered my very specific, self-conscious question. Your answers and experiences were so reassuring and comforting to read!

  67. Glenda says...

    I am 60 and my mom is 88, I still remember the coolness on my face as I snuggled into her arms. Best feeling ever!

    • I love this–moved me so much.

  68. My kids do the EXACT same thing with my arms. My 7-yr-old calls them “Mommy-Floppy Arms!” And the crazy thing is, I remember doing this with my own mommy’s arms. They were the most comforting place to be in the whole world. Would that we’d start regarding ourselves with that much love. :-)

  69. Sarah Sheridan says...

    I have experienced the flip side of this! My mother is beautiful fair and thin. I am average and thick. But my mother never made me feel less than. Has never once told me I am anything but beautiful. She is not one to shower compliments but when she does tell me that I am… I know it is deep and pure and true. In a world with not much love for tall thick average women, my mothers unconditional compliment gave me a strength to fall back on. I hope I can give my own daughter (or son) this gift one day.

  70. Janna says...

    This is one of my favorite posts! Yes, absolutely. Two days after I had my second baby via C-section, my toddler came to the hospital to visit us. She saw me, bloated and swollen after surgery, exhausted from the lack of sleep, and my hair a complete mess. I was wearing a hospital gown. She looked at me with complete adoration and said: “Beautiful dress, mama! Twirl!” I still have tears in my eyes every time I think of that moment.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh that makes me tear up.

    • Rebecca says...

      That is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.

    • Ditto to both the other comments. What a beautiful moment.

  71. Dori says...

    Joanna, I just love reading your posts! They are so authentic and ring so true to me as a mom. I relate so much to not just this article, but so many that you post.
    We have two beautiful children, Sofia 5 and Luca 3 1/2, they are my joy and my life.
    Children are so pure and so innocent. I always feel the same way you do. Whether I have stinky breath in the morning, or my hair is a mess, or i have no makeup on, to them I am their mommy and they love me for who I am. It is the most beautiful feeling to have that pure unconditional love. We co-sleep with our kids (thank God for our king size bed!), and every night when I take them up to bed, they curl up next to me, one on each side, and i feel like life is beautiful! I want these days to never end, as I know once they grow up, I won’t have them this close again. I truly cherish these moments with them. We call my belly, pizza dough belly, and I love it. It makes them giggle and that’s all I want to see. 😊
    Thank you for always making me smile or get goosebumps while reading your posts.

  72. Jennifer says...

    This post exemplifies why I read your blog regularly. Loved it!
    I have a 6 week old and as I grumble about continuing to wear maternity pants, I look at her and see complete beauty. She has my dimpled chin and my smile and my big feet and I love all of it! It makes no sense not to love it on me as well!

    • Megan Cahn says...

      I feel the same way about my cat! Would love to post about it.

  73. Alex says...

    Thank you for this! I am struggling a lot right now with my post-baby body. 10 months after my c-section, i have a mushy, floppity ‘shelf’ hanging around my mid-section. It’s like a permanent muffin top even when I’m naked. But my daughter has just figured out how to blow raspberries on my mushy belly, and it is THE. BEST. THING. EVER. So I guess it’s not all that bad to be soft in the middle… :)

  74. Lisa says...

    What a beautiful post!

    My son is too young to give any indication of what he thinks about my body (apart from grinning like a maniac when he sees my boobs, but they mean food to him and I feel that way about Ben and Jerry’s, so it’s understandable). However, what I did find is that pregnancy helped me finally love my body. It sounds awful, but my whole life I was always able to find something about my body that I didn’t like or felt insecure about (I thought about it at length one day, and literally couldn’t think of something I hadn’t had a complex about). But being pregnant changed that. I went for coffee with a friend and she articulated what I was feeling, that for once you can just really enjoy your body. I wore tight fitting dresses for the first time ever, because my stomach was supposed to stick out and who cared anyway? I was growing a person. I felt such a mental weight lift. It’s continued after as well. Yes, I managed to get to 38 weeks without stretch marks, but then they went nuts and now I have these permanent reminders of my pregnancy, and they’ll fade anyway. Yes, my boobs are much larger than they used to be and they flop everywhere, but they provide him with nourishment. Yes I have a c section scar, but thanks to that operation both my son and I are safe and well.

    • Hillary says...

      I had this same experience. I realized by body had a really profound function, to give life. It made me appreciate it and want to take care of it in a totally new way.

    • Angela says...

      I felt this way during both of my pregnancies. My non-pregnant life had been filled with so much insecurity and self-loathing, but I felt so beautiful with my pregnant belly sticking out there that I just wanted to stay pregnant forever! (Not actually pregnant forever…but you know what I mean?!)

    • Annie says...

      Same here! Being pregnant was really liberating to me in a way that I hadn’t really felt before. I realized that my body was doing something pretty freaking amazing, so I should stop stressing about how it looked. :) My daughter is now 16 months old, and I’m still proud of my body! It grew a person! And then fed that person! It still amazes me to this day.

  75. I really hope that I learn to love myself in this way once I get the opportunity to have children of my own. I never experienced true unconditional love from my parents, and I can only hope to offer it to my own babies

    Steph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

  76. Megan says...

    This post made me cry and seemed to be something I needed to hear. I’m feeling emotional about mom stuff these days, not about body image (today!) but other stuff. Thanks for writing such a sweet and touching post.

  77. love this post and its so true!!! my 2.5 year old reached over the other day and squeezed my cheek and said “CHUBBY!” like its the best thing ever. If i ever say to him, you are getting so tall and skinny now, he says “NO! Chubby!” like he wants to be considered chubby, because I love his chubby thighs and he thinks its a good thing. And he loves my hair and always says “nice hair mama” when we say goodbye or goodnight, no matter how beautiful or how much of a mess it looks. makes me feel like a superhero.

  78. JH says...

    My three year old and I sing “Edelweiss” at night too! He’s started joining in, which is awesome. He also told me today ‘Mommy, you’re so handsome’. How can you not love that?

  79. Remy Arguello says...

    I love this post. I sometimes give myself such a hard time for being a bit (okay, a lot) softer than what I’d like to be. But truthfully, no one makes me feel more accomplished and more beautiful and strong than my 3 year old daughter. I can tell that in her eyes, I’m the bees’ knees…love handles and all. Joanna, I think you are such a beautiful woman…pre/post baby. Why are we so critical of ourselves?

  80. Simone says...

    This post makes me smile. My 20 month old loves to point out the large mole on my face (one I HATED growing up as a teen) and laugh and say, “mow, mama! mama’s mow!” Seeing his natural curiosity and him finding it fascinating and different makes me look at my “beauty mark” with entirely new eyes.

  81. Trista says...

    My 4-year-old looks at me every once in while and says, “Mommy, I think you’re pretty.” He also told me one day he liked when I wore a ponytail, glasses and pajamas…my laziest attire. It melts me.

  82. Ruth says...

    I love this. I have a 9 month old and am still struggling with this new post-baby body. I’ve always been generally comfortable with how I look but now feeling and looking a bit different all over, I try to remind myself that my body brought my beautiful baby girl into this world. There is beauty shining out from all of myself — even the squishy parts! — because of that. :-)

    • jules says...

      I’m right here with you. I never had body issues and always felt pretty sexy and stylish even when I was at size 10. After having a kid late in life (42) I have a hard time making eye contact with myself in the mirror. My partner and I both run our own (separate) businesses and with a kid it’s been very difficult to take care of myself. My son and my clients come first, and of course his dad wants his own time and mine as well. I lost the weight but then regained 10 lbs. I hate the way I look and the way I feel is worse. I notice skinnier moms and wonder what they are doing that I”m not. I NEVER thought that way pre-kid/mom body. Then I get mad at myself for thinking this way… urgh!

  83. Samantha says...

    I remember when I was a kid, my mom never cared about taking a shower or putting clothes on in front of us, nudity was normal in our household, and I remember telling her she had a giggly butt (lol). I don’t know how she took it, she never seemed mad or anything, and I just thought it was really funny. Not ugly, not pretty, just really funny. I was not looking at its size, its cellulite or stretchmarks. What caught my eye was how it giggled when my mom walked around. Kids have no idea what a “perfect body” is supposed to look like. They’re not contaminated by the media’s idea of perfect. To them their mom or dad’s bodies are cool in one way or another just because it’s their parents’s.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is the sweetest, sweetest thing.

  84. I love this post. It made me well up.

  85. Katie says...

    Joanna, thank you. I really needed to hear this. I love everything about this piece.

  86. Christine says...

    My little 3 year old daughter is built like me. Never gonna be a size 2 and that’s ok. After having 2 babies I’ve really come to terms with my body and what I love most about myself is that I am strong. I’ve never been a frail, fragile girl, and have the strength to do alot of things alot of my girlfriend’s can’t ( I did some pull ups last summer before I got pregnant and was so proud of myself!) I hope my daughter grows up knowing she can be strong in so many ways, and that we have loved every bit of her along the way.

  87. Love this…although it’s far easier to believe this for other mamas than for myself. Edelweiss is one of my favorite songs to sing to my kids, too!

  88. Lilly says...

    I live far from my mom these days, but I can recall with perfect detail her hands. And even though she doesn’t have the most beautiful hands, I love them so much because they are hers.

    • Angela says...

      I was looking at my hands the other day as I was feeding my daughter and they reminded me of my mom’s hands. I remember thinking my mom’s hands were so beautiful and wishing mine would look like hers one day. I texted her to tell her so, and she was so taken aback (in a good way) that I had felt that way.

  89. G. says...

    This reminds me of an article I read before I had kids where the author spoke about leaving your body issues aside, donning a bathing suit, and jumping in the water with your kids because you’ll never get those experiences back. Now that I have children my body is certainly not the same, but I have so.much.fun IN the pool with my kids that I don’t give one hoot (most days) about my puffy tummy, dimply thighs, or the like. Especially since it breaks my heart when my mother-in-law routinely turns down invitations to join us since she “doesn’t even own a suit.” Of course we have bonding time at other times, but she really is missing out and I know the only reason she won’t join us are her insecurities.

    Please keep talking about this and I promise to keep trying to do my part every day to raise a little boy and a little girl who are PROUD of their bodies regardless of cultural beauty standards.

  90. Meredith says...

    Today as I was changing my two year old’s diaper, she said, Mama, I like your eyebrows. Mama, I like your belly. Mama, I like your arms. It caught me so off guard, because those are the three body areas where I’m most self-conscious. It was so beautiful and affirming. I love that our small children see extraordinary where we see ordinary. Thank you for this sweet post!

    • Just got chills reading this! Children have such beautiful intuition and without the inhibition we place on it as adults it shines through in the best ways. Beautiful <3

  91. Lana says...

    I love this! I’ve always tried to be really positive about my body and say lively things about women of all shapes and sizes in front of my daughters. Then the other day I took my daughter with me to get a haircut and while I was there the stylist waxed by brows. My daughter (who is six) kept asking me a thousand questions about it. “Don’t you think your eye brows are pretty, Mama? Does that hurt? If it hurts and you think your eyebrows are pretty, why are you doing that? Will I have to do that someday?” Each question felt like a sock in the stomach (especially the last one!) because here I was doing something that went against everything I’ve taught her about natural beauty and loving yourself. It was a huge, heartbreaking lesson for me.

    • Don’t be so hard on yourself! My daughters and I (they’re 5) have conversations around these things often (and usually around hair removal!). They ask if they’ll need to shave their legs or tweeze their eyebrows when they’re older. I usually respond with something like “you may choose to, but you don’t have to”. I think they absorb the general vibe of us so much more than the small inconsistencies – and no doubt they’ll appreciate having had a mom who put a priority on self care in one of its many forms. <3

    • I’m sorry you felt that way. When my son was 3ish he had two providers at the daycare who had pierced noses and he asked “do I have to get that when I grow up?” I was like “no, I prefer you don’t.” He really thought everyone grew up and HAD to get one.

      Now that he is 8 I tell him I don’t want him to have facial piercings or obvious tattoos (I have one on my forearm so I’m not opposed just not facial), or a man bun – in fact I prefer short hair on men. he can do what he wants but these are my preferences.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with enhancing our natural beauty by doing things that make us feel good. So getting your brows shaped is not denying your natural beauty its helping you love what you have even more. Just tell her, if you want to…and its better to have a professional than make super thin lines that never grow in again! :)

  92. lisa says...

    I nursed my son until he was two (2.5 now). Recently, seeing me undressed, we had the following conversation:

    H: Those nipples belong to you, mama?
    M: Yes.
    H: They are for a baby?
    M: Yes.
    H: Not for a little boy?

    And, just like that, my body was my own again. Actually, we – my 5 year old and my 2.5 year old – talk a lot about bodies. They are obsessed with where they grew and how they nursed.

    • Kimberly says...

      Hahahahaha I love this. At the moment I’m nursing my 14-month-old son and wondering if my body will EVER be my own again!

  93. Amy says...

    I recently had three children (each of them around 4 years old) make comments to me about being fat. Each time I responded that I was just bigger than them, because I’m taller and older too. I wish we didn’t have such a negative association with the word “fat”. These kids were just stating facts (yes, I am “fat”) but I didn’t want them to see a negative reaction from me when they used that word. I think adults need to remember “out of the mouths of babes”; they are pure and innocent, let’s not put our twists on their words.

    • My son gets upset when people say “your mom is fat.” And I’ve told him “well, I am” and he is still upset. So then I list all the great things my fat body can do and how our body shape doesn’t make us less than or define who we are. I’ve tried to make it a non-upsetting word for him. (took me a long time as an adult, first I was too skinny – then too fat for my family)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound amazing, nina. you might really like the new-ish book Shrill by lindy west. she talks about body image in such a great, empowered way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      laura, just saw your note about lindy west, too! she’s so amazing.

  94. This post is wonderful, and it’s as if you stole thoughts right out of my own head…this is something that has been on my mind ever since having my first baby five months ago.

    I have always been petite without much effort–it’s just my body type. I gained 45 lbs during pregnancy and then lost it all by the time I was four months postpartum, thanks to breast-feeding. It’s funny…I was concerned about what my body would look like during and after pregnancy before I got pregnant. But after getting pregnant that concern was quickly overshadowed by pure amazement and appreciation for what my body was DOING (growing a life!! whoa!!) And after giving birth, as my baby outgrows my small lap (half her body now dangles off me when I nurse her) I find myself wishing I was bigger-framed, and softer.

    I see my body as her home, her source of comfort, and I want it to feel soft and warm to her. I think the changes that happen to our minds and bodies when we become mothers is an incredibly beautiful transformation.

  95. Judy says...

    New york magazine published this recently:
    http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/07/women-talk-post-baby-bodies-losing-weight-after-pregnancy.html

    The last woman echoes the sentiments in your piece:
    “The Woman Who Prefers Her Body Now”

    Mother of three, 40: The thing I really wasn’t prepared for was that after I stopped nursing my boobs were so deflated. “Like socks filled with pennies,” as my friend described them. I contemplated getting a boob lift. About seven years later they’ve inexplicably returned to normal. I definitely had a “better” body before having kids, but weirdly I appreciate my body way more now. Pregnancy gave me a sense of what my body was capable of and it taught me to like my body, because it’s strong and resilient and it’s never getting any better so I might as well enjoy it as much as I can. But also, my kids love my body. They rub their faces into my shoulders or pat my loose tummy or hold their arms up to be carried and I am able to pick them up. In those moments, my body is a gift. And scars, flab, stretch marks — none of it matters.

  96. margaux says...

    i loved being pregnant – never felt more beautiful – and while i don’t LOVE the way my body looks right now (post-emergency C section times 2), i truly do not have the time to give a shit anymore. THAT IS SO FREEING. i wish i could bottle this feeling and give it away for free to 18-year old girls nervous about wearing a swimsuit to the beach for their senior class trip.

    a couple of years ago, my then 2yo daughter was asked in an interview at her daycare to describe her mama (me) in one word. “sturdy,” she said. i loved that. in my 20s, somebody calling me that would’ve brought me to tears b/c of what i *thought* that inferred (big , unfeminine, etc.), but that’s EXACTLY how i want my daughters to view me. i am their (slightly-squishy-in-parts) rock.

    • Amy says...

      Heck yeah. Love this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      LOVE THIS, margaux. this should be printed out and given to all young women. your daughters are lucky to have you!

  97. Natasha says...

    Thanks for this post. My almost 5 year old LOVES my “squishy” arms and belly and I find myself getting mad at her for always trying to squeeze and poke at me. She does the same now to her baby brother. This posts gives me some new perspective on it.

  98. What a beautiful post! I loved the “Big ‘ol mama” part. Kids are the best haha.

    Everyone says my daughter looks so much like me, until they see my husband! She is so much of the both of us in her looks but her personality is all her own. Sweet and sassy little fart.

    My body has never been and never will be perfect. But it’s healthy and happy and I love it.

  99. Beautiful reminder! My kids inherited my easily embarrassed nature – or extremely red face when embarrassed – that makes it impossible to play things off. I wrote one post about it here, but I have many more posts to write in regards to this :-P : http://www.realtyhousewife.com/747/fred-bird-my-arch-nemesis/

  100. People always say our kids look very much like me, which is true, though there are of course hints of my husband (and his family believes they look mostly just like him ;). I am having a hard time being comfortable in my body right now because I gained much more weight with my third pregnancy and it just doesn’t feel like ‘me.’ But I am trying to have a good attitude and set a good example at least in front of my daughter….while also finally taking steps to do something about it. My oldest said after her little brother was born, ‘Mommy, your tummy is like cookie dough!’ She also said she was making sand castles…

  101. Jessica says...

    That’s beautiful. My Irish heritage has given me skin that has a ton of freckles and moles. Growing up I hated them. I wanted bare, smooth-looking arms and legs. Now I have a 13 month old daughter who’s always poking her little finger at them and looking up at me with a smile. I think it’s adorable and I’m shocked to find myself feeling more beautiful because of them. Part of me would love it if she had them too, but I hope I can teach her that they are something special and unique, not something to be ashamed of. My mother tried to teach me the same, but it just didn’t work. Advice?

    • Isabella says...

      Pippi Longstocking books! She’s a powerful freckle role model. ;)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Freckleface Strawberry is a sweet book, too: http://amzn.to/2aAWgyN

  102. The arm squeeze! I get that all the time from my two-year old son. Usually when he is drinking milk (maybe to still feel connected post-nursing?). He also loves to randomly pinch my arms really hard (no idea why but it hurts)…he thinks it is funny until I pretend cry and then I get a big hug. Boys are funny.

  103. Katie says...

    I love this post. I just had my first baby 3 months ago and the whole time I was pregnant I hoped he’d look like my husband. Then he came out looking just like me and it’s funny I think he’s the most beautiful little thing (of course I do, I’m his mama).

  104. Nuala says...

    I remember when I was a kid my mum and I had a game where I would say she had a big bottom and she would say, ‘No! I have a medium sized bottom!” and I would insist that she had a big bottom. It never occured to me that she could think it was a bad thing to have a big bum, I thought she was beautiful! Similarly, a few years ago I was playing with a family friend who was about 3 and she pointed at my acne and asked what it was. I told her it was a zit and she replied, “I like it!”

    • I love this.

      When my son was about 9 he told me that when he was really little he’d always thought that all women had a mole on their chin like mine. As though he couldn’t see past me, the mom, to any other version. <3

  105. Brittany says...

    Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder, Joanna!

  106. Lauren E. says...

    I never thought twice about my mom’s body until I was an adult and she looked at me as more of a friend. Then she started to confide in me about her shoulders, her hips, etc. None of her insecurities had ever occurred to me! Which I think is a lesson in itself: we really never know anyone’s insecurities until they tell us.

  107. Kate says...

    Growing up with one bathroom there was a whole lot of naked time in my house so I grew up knowing exactly what my mom’s body looked like, and it was the most natural body in the entire world to me! She can fix anything and is so strong and smart, so I think I grew up figuring that if my body looked remotely like hers, it was okay because I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be like.

    • Samantha says...

      I love your comment. So beautiful!

  108. This is a lovely post, and the comments are lovely too. I just wish I could say I felt the same! I have my moments where I feel beautiful, and I know I’m beautiful in the eyes of my children and my husband, but I still struggle with body image daily. I used to be a dancer, and I had an amazing body. It was young, and strong, and lean. Then I had two babies back to back followed by a really traumatic year, and things just aren’t the same. In my heart I know it doesn’t matter and I should be gentle with myself (and even that I still look good!), but it’s hard to silence that voice in my head that tells me I look different. I wrote a blog post about it, if there are any other moms out there feeling the same.

    https://melanieshepardstephens.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/stop-telling-me-to-love-my-post-baby-body/

    • What a well written post, thanks for sharing this. I really related to your perspective. Total acceptance and love of ones own postpartum body can sometimes feel like another achievable standard to attempt to live up to…

    • Angeleno says...

      That was a great post. I think your perspective is the way a lot of athletic women, moms and non-moms, feel about aging and their bodies. Thanks for sharing!

  109. beth says...

    Thank you for this. I have a 2.5 year old girl and I’m struggling with weaning depression and trying to lose weight after a recent gain- thanks for the reminder to look at myself through her eyes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hang in there, beth! sending you a hug xoxoxo

  110. Raia says...

    Such a sweet blog post! My daughter, 5 years old, loves my “bumpy arms” and would stroke them or ask to touch them when she was feeling upset for at bedtime. I’ve felt embarrassed about the bumps (keratosis pilaris) on my upper arms for as long as I can remember, tying to cover them whenever possible. But her love of their texture is sweet and reminds me to love my skin and body the way it is.

  111. Leanne says...

    I love this. And I love the way my self-image has changed since I had my babies. My mom is constantly fussing about her hair and her wrinkles and her saggy skin. I look at her and I see an absolute beauty, every single time. And every once in awhile, it clicks that my kids see me in the same way. I’m their mama, the one who can fix all the boo-boos and scare away the monsters and tickle their necks with kisses until they melt into puddles. The lines, the saggies, the weird freckles and post-pregnancy patches of whispy hair that don’t seem to want to grow back…that’s their mama. And in the grand scheme of it all, my stretch marks on my thighs matter not a bit. Thank you for the reminder today, Joanna! :)

  112. MW says...

    This is timely. I just spent last week at the beach with a large group of extended family including my 7 and 10 year old kids. This is a trip we have been taking for 7 years now and this was the first time that many kids were in the 9-11 range and some of them, including my 10 year old son, were becoming body conscious. I realized that its so important to show our kids to appreciate our bodies and all the work they do for us, which I admit is kind of hard for me to do in a bathing suit! My first instinct was like yours, to think I should have worked out more, get some abs of steel or somehow grow longer, leaner legs. Then I overheard these girls in the bathroom (not part of our group) asking each other “do my thighs look fat?”. UGH! I know this is part of growing up, but all the same, I hope my kids (and I) will learn to love their bodies.

    • Isabella says...

      When I was younger, I found swimming at the public pool in my hometown the perfect antidote to this — so many body types, so many soft grandmas, so nothing remotely like the beauty “standard” in our culture! I always came away feeling proud of how fit and healthy I was, and forgetting — at least for a time — about whatever perceived “flaws” I thought I had.

  113. Anne says...

    This is so sweet. My 13-yr-old son squeezes my arm (often out of the blue) and says “I love you so much”. I just melt. I figure he’s 13, maybe too old for kisses and hugs, so this is his way of loving on me. I also have three adult children and they are always ready for a hug. I love your question now that I think about it: I do feel beautiful around my children!

    • That is so sweet! I hope my kids do that when they’re thirteen!

  114. Linda K says...

    My 8 year-old daughter recently confided to me that she looooovvves snuggling with me best because my body is ‘more cozy’ and Daddy’s is ‘ a bit too pointy.’ Ha!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha that is so cute.

  115. Dee says...

    I used to squeeze my grandmother’s arms when I was a little girl and she would tuck me it. She has these great big Sicilian grandma arms. It was so comforting. Haven’t thought about that in a while – thanks for reminding me of a sweet moment.

  116. Shannon says...

    My daughter has her father’s incredibly handsome good looks but she has my sense of humor, my outgoing nature, and my dimples. Wouldn’t have it any other way♡♡♡

  117. Lindsay says...

    When I wear work clothes, my four year old son often says: “You look beautiful, mama!” It makes me feel great about myself, and also happy I’m raising a boy who knows the value of a compliment!

  118. My kid told my mom, who was pushing 90, “You’re so beautiful, Grandma.” Kids see the soul, not the surface.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “Kids see the soul, not the surface.” = that’s a beautiful way to put it.

  119. Amy says...

    I love this post. Whenever I get my hair colored and blow dry, my boys gaze at me and say Mommy you look so pretty. I feel vain but it’s the sweetest thing. My time with them in the morning (the three of us lay in bed and talk, they are 3 and 2) is my favorite time of the day.

  120. Such a sweet way to think about yourself, through your little ones’ eyes! I wish we could all see ourselves in such a positive way!

  121. kathy says...

    so true! i have a 1 year old and 4 year old and definitely still have a squishy tummy. my girls love to rest their heads on my tummy. sometimes, it’s the only way i can get them to go to sleep! the other day, as we were coming home after pizza, my 4 year old shouted, mom! my tummy is big and squishy now like yours!! while i want to be healthy and fit, i obsess so much less now about my body than i did when i was a lean 20-something year old. i just see myself thru their eyes.

  122. Ellen W says...

    I think the unconditional self-love is critical, and I keep thinking about my favorite mantra of “fake it until you make it.” My mother was always loving and supportive of me and my sisters, letting us know we were/are beautiful, we should love our bodies for how they are rather than what others would have us believe they should be, etc. But I also have clear memories of how she hated to have her picture taken, of her self-criticisms and the way she disparaged her weight, her hair, her neck. She never seemed to feel proud or even just comfortable in how she looked, which absolutely affected how I look at myself in turn. My daughter is only 9 months old, but I’ve already begun working to minimize any questions like “do I look fat in this?” or spending a lot of time checking all the angles in the mirror to see what might need fixing. I’m trying to be kind and forgiving of myself so that my daughter knows how to do the same.

    • Emily says...

      Ellen, I grew up similarly and also have a 9 month old. It is a lifelong struggle for me not to make disparaging internal and external comments about my body but I have a rule that I do not say those things out loud now. And when my mom is negative about her body, I remind her that she is wonderful and please not to say those things anymore for the sake of my daughter. Also, I hate how I look in pictures but I make a point to ask my husband to take causal pics of me and the baby. I know that after some time, I’ll think how wonderful and young I looked and my daughter will have many momentos of our beautiful life together. Keep on momming!

    • marcy says...

      I had the exact same experience growing up with my mum – she hated getting her photo taken and would comment on her own body (although she was always loving and supportive of us and our looks). I am also very cautious now to not do the same around my son. Here’s to a new generation of confidence! :)

  123. Heather says...

    I never thought for one minute about my mother being chubby until I grew into my early 20’s and developed severe body issues about myself. I just loved her, period. I still do. <3

  124. Tay says...

    I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I am in awe of my own body for the first time in my life. I have never felt the physicality of life like this, and it’s completely changing my perspective on my body in the best way. When my breasts leak a little and I freak out, and my husband just strokes my hair and says “Breastfeeding is going to be so beautiful!”, I learn to extend grace to myself through his wonder at what my body can do. I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror…I am just overcome with joy that I get to carry this child.

    I loved this post, and I can’t wait to experience it from the other side!

    • Sarah says...

      You’ve only just begun to see what your body can do. The next year will amaze you in the best way. Congratulations!

  125. Isabella says...

    Thank you for this! My son is about to have his first birthday; my body is still a ways off from its pre-pregnancy state, and some things I know will never be what they were (good bye, perky breasts — I hope I appreciated you while I had you!) But my self-critical tendencies are certainly mitigated by my appreciation for all that my body has done in the past two years — bringing this little boy into the world and keeping him fed and thriving. And while my son is a bit too young yet to offer compliments, when he reaches out and wraps his plump little arms around my neck and squeezes, or lies next to me gently patting my chest like it’s his best friend in the world, or poking at my less-than-taut belly and perhaps mulling over his own origins, I do feel beautiful, and strong, and in a way, just right.

  126. I actually think about that often, how my kids see my body as just perfect. They have no idea of it being anything other than the way it is. I love that fresh perspective. Lately I’ve been adding an extra dose of love for myself too… where as I used to see my body post kids and reference my body pre-kids, now I’ve just started mentally loving it so much when I see it in the mirror– with thoughts like, “Thank you so much for helping me grow two amazing beings! You are such an amazing body!” (Extra jiggle and all!)

    Love the comment from Sadie! Perfect!

  127. CM says...

    I am a Mom to a three year old girl and recently gave birth to twin boys. My stomach is still bearing the lines and wrinkles of being stretched to the max during my twin pregnancy. Recently my daughter said to me as she patted my bare belly: “Oh Mama, I love your sprinkles” (she meant to say wrinkles.) It was so sweet. I also love my sprinkles.

    • Dalia says...

      Love the word “sprinkles”! What a beautiful and empowering word!

  128. Meg says...

    Lovely. My 1.5 year old loves to pet my arms as she falls asleep and she’ll shout “arm!” imperiously if she can’t find it, haha. And as other mamas said, she loves my squishy tummy. It’s a perfect pillow.

  129. Jamie says...

    Love this! What a beautiful post.

  130. Lindsay Marie says...

    It’s so fun to see yourself in your kids. I love how my sons cute hands and feet mirror mine. and that photo is one of my favorites I’ve saved on Pinterest! I love that age so much.

  131. Libbynan says...

    I love this post! My daughter looked so little like either of us that for years I secretly wondered if I brought home the wrong baby. When she was ten I saw a picture of my husband’s second cousin, once removed, who could have been her twin and realized the wonder that is recessive genes. Our son had always been a strange mixture of us both and we could see clearly how dominant and recessive genes combined. Your children don’t really care that much what you look like when they are young. When they get to be teenagers, no matter what you look like it will be a source of embarrassment. The fact that you love and care for them is the only thing that really matters, no matter what they say at 15.

    • AmyB says...

      So true, about kids being embarrassed by you! For me, the embarrassment came earlier, and has faded with the teen years. I had my oldest when I was barely 21; as a result, I was a lot younger than all of his friends’ moms and still looked like the kid I was. It mortified him that his friends thought I was pretty – not “like a mom.” Now he’s 17, and thinks my style (which is still pretty relaxed and hippyish) is cool, and his younger sister thinks it’s awesome that borrowing my clothes is an appealing option. I’m glad that all of my kids (3 and counting) like how I look, and say so – but it was rough when I was younger and my son would blush at my ripped jeans and converse :)

  132. Purnima says...

    So true. My sister and I used to love squeezing my mom’s and her sister’s flabby (😍) tummies. We used to refer to time lovingly as water beds. Now that I’m older, I’m sure it wasn’t the compliment we had intended it to be. I love my mom and this post helps me look at myself through her eyes. This post comes at such a perfect time. I’ve been thinking a lot about self love. Being kind and patient with myself. Allowing myself to feel hope. Thank you so much. I will be sharing and revisiting this post a lot.

  133. Emily says...

    I have had times that I am more angular with hard edges, than squishy and soft… and, hands down, when it comes to cuddling my babies the squishy and soft wins with prize. Beautiful post.

  134. Rachael says...

    Since my daughter was born (4.5 years ago) I’ve stopped wearing makeup almost entirely… like once or twice a year for family pictures or a work function with my husband. I want her to see herself as beautiful just as she is, and I realized it starts with me.

  135. Upon hearing a stranger call me “young lady”, my 7 year old later said with a furrowed brow “She called you ‘young lady’, but you’re an old lady because you’re a mama with a squishy belly!” To her ears, “young” was an insult to someone who was both a mother and provider of a wonderfully soft belly to cuddle against.

    • Linda K says...

      <3 <3

    • Kimberley says...

      Love this!

  136. Jenny says...

    This is such a beautiful post. I have tears in my eyes! I have the sweetest 8-month-old baby girl who doesn’t sleep very well- meaning that I have enormous bags under my eyes and look exhausted all the time these days. I’ve been feeling a little down about it, which I know is a bit vain. But then my baby looks at me and smiles, and I feel so glow-y and content, and it dawns on me that she just sees the love in my eyes and not the bags underneath. Nothing like a sweet baby smile to bring you back down to earth and make you realize what truly matters.

  137. Chrissta says...

    Great post! Thank you so much!

  138. Julie says...

    Thank you for this. My daughter does the same thing with my arms, except squeezes and tells me in her little voice, “like Play-Doh!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha good description!

  139. Alexa says...

    This is so sweet. This past weekend, my son and I were driving in the car and I pulled down the visor mirror at a stop light. I exhaled and said: “Whoo-wee, buddy. Mommy looks old!” and my son said, “Mommy, no! You look like a cute Mommy!” I need to remember to speak nicely to myself! :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so, so adorable! what a sweetheart.

  140. Jenny says...

    Thank you for such a lovely post and reminder-we are truly beautiful to our children and they are truly and amazingly beautiful to us. I needed this today!

  141. Elisabeth says...

    This. All of this. My one-year-old likes to poke my belly button or play my belly like a drum and laugh. I often think, “Oh, my belly is too squishy. I don’t look nice in x, y, or z.” But when my daughter looks at me adoringly, I think, “No. This is the belly that carried you for nine months. You don’t care one bit that it isn’t flat any more, nor is it every likely to be again.” And when she curls her chubby hands around my neck, I’m glad that she fits in my arms.

    • Jane says...

      Yes to this! My 15-month-old climbed onto my legs this morning and giggled hysterically while playing with what I call my “elephant bellybutton”, protruding and wiggly from having carried him for 9 months. For that moment, I stopped looking at my belly button as an imperfection, but rather an oh-so-natural toy for the little guy who made it that way :)