What’s A Mother To Do?

Raising children in this body-insane world is really hard.

The most important thing I did was tell my daughters the truth. I hope my life reflected the truths I told. I don’t believe in protecting my children from ideas or realities (including economic ones), and I gave them reasonable physical freedom in the world, including the freedom to make mistakes.

I’ve raised two daughters (now in their 40s and 30s) who are pretty okay on body image. They are not contributing to the beauty/medical insanity. I’m not sure that my answers are everybody’s answers, or that what I did was ideal, but it worked pretty well for us.

I do usually feel good about myself. I’ve never dieted – I’m a fast burner with a low set point – so I had an unusually good start. One of the major reasons I’ve continued to feel good about myself as I’ve aged is almost 20 years of activist work.

I thought that they were beautiful and told them so often.

I love good food and so do my kids. We cooked and ate together. We had an open refrigerator. I do believe in healthy food but I also believe in treats. I don’t believe in restricting the amount of food they eat. And they got to spend their own money outside the home on their own choice of foods. Did they always choose wisely? No. One daughter would buy candy that she was allergic to. I bit my tongue (hard) and didn’t turn it into a major control issue. She eventually got tired of getting sick and stopped.

When media messages (TV, movies, magazines, music) ran past us, we talked and I commented and analyzed a lot. It worked really well. And now my daughters, as adults, comment and analyze … a lot.

When the inevitable happened – “They say I’m fat!” “They’re teasing me about my breasts/ass/legs/hair.” – I was really clear that “they” were wrong. “They” were jerks, and there were reasons for that, and we discussed them. I’m not saying that my kids’ feelings didn’t get hurt, but I could give them a lot of support.

I really encouraged physical activity of any kind. I wasn’t very active myself as a child, but I was as an adult, and that helped.

We had supportive friends. We went to places and events that reflected our values. My younger daughter was an early and enthusiastic fan of Fat Lip Readers Theatre.

My grown-up daughters are fabulous. I take some credit, but it really does take a sane community to raise a sane child.

Body Image

3 thoughts on “What’s A Mother To Do?

  1. I wish I had been your daughter, Laurie. Would you mind adopting me? :-) It isn’t everyone who gets the chance to have a new 56-year-old daughter.

    Seriously, though, your daughters are very fortunate to have you. I did the best I could with my sons, & I was involved with fat acceptance & working on my body image & I was non-dieting for most of their lives, but the older (naturally thin) one is somewhat orthorexic, seriously into “healthism”, pushing himself often to exercise too much & apparently afraid of food to some extent & determined that there are sharp delineations between “good” & “bad” foods. Since he knows I don’t eat compulsively or abnormal amounts of food & that I exercise every day, he tells me that it is not how much I eat, but that I eat the “wrong” things. He has been, over the past couple of years, often been quoting the South Beach Diet book as if it is Bible.

    The younger one is a big boy (6’3″, about 240 pounds) with normal eating habits (he COULD eat more vegetables, but I don’t ever interfere in my sons’ lives or give unsolicited advice), but a firm belief that his body is not good enough, &, for some unknown reason, the desire to tell people that he is shorter than he is. His life partner & I are both working on him to increase his self-esteem & improve his body image. Most of his issues came from his abusive & rejecting paternal grandmother, who has always compared him unfavorably to his older brother; Eric could do no wrong, Shaun could do no right. I think that the rest must come from too much exposure to the media, since I know that I have tried to teach them both better.

  2. Patsy,

    I’d love to adopt you. You sound fabulous.

    The outside world is so much with us when it comes to raising kids.
    Not to mention unhelpful family.

    My grown up daughters however together they are, still deal with issues. And we continue to discuss and to support each other.

    One of my catch phrases is “life is a long time”. And when it comes to grown children (and ourselves) the good news is that they often get to continue to heal and to change.

    Have a great holiday.


  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family, Laurie, & to Debbie as well. I hope that you have a lovely day. I know we are all a work in progress & hope that the boys will keep progressing until they reach better, happier, more confident places. I also hope that maybe reading my posts will remind people that, while the greatest pressures about beauty/body size in this culture are placed women, it is not ONLY women who can have issues about their bodies.

    My best to everyone & may everyone eat well tomorrow & be relaxed & guilt-free about enjoying whatever good food is available & about satisfying hunger & sharing a celebration.


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