I love being stylish. In fact, my Appearance Goal is to look good in any and every situation. I feel so much better about myself when I’m dressed in a great outfit with my hair and makeup done, and even better when the people around me take notice. But there’s a flip side to this.
When I start to get to know someone, usually an account, and I mention that I have four children, 100% of the time they are completely shocked. Then they unashamedly scan my body and say, “Wow! You look good for having four kids!”
I know this is meant as a compliment, and I take it as so, but I want to put this compliment into perspective for you. This would be like someone saying, “Wow! You’re smart for a black guy!” It’s a compliment and an insult in one. You are smart, but I expected you to be stupid because you’re black. In the same way, when someone is shocked that I could be both attractive and a mother of four, it’s saying that they expect mothers to be unattractive.
The thing that I hate to admit is that there’s a reason for this stereotype. When my kids were little, I had absolutely no style. I was also 40lbs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. I was just wrapped up in my kids, and happily rocking the mom jeans.
But there came a turning point in my life. One day my husband came home from work and told me a “crazy” story from his day. He’d gone into an account, where a woman (who just happened to be a young, sexy, salsa singer) was working alone that day. She said she was glad he was there, because she needed some heavy samples moved in the back room, and he could help her. (Cue the porn music) Completely oblivious to the situation at hand, he went into the back room to rearrange those samples, and she came up behind him and (you guessed it) grabbed him. To which he quickly stood up, walked to his car, and called a single coworker to hand over the account.
As he told me this story, I couldn’t help but compare myself to this woman. I was SO angry at the injustice of it. Here I was, the love of my husband’s life, which resulted in me having his children, which resulted in me being frumpy and overweightAnd now he was still really attractive, and young sexy salsa singers, who didn’t have children yet, were competing for him. I felt hopeless, because in my mind, there was no alternative identity for me. A mom was a mom. And no guy ever says, “I hope I find a girl like my mom.”
I remember laying in bed that night falling deeper and deeper into self pity. But as the night went on, that self pity started to turn. I began to see that I had more power over my image than I originally thought, and that I could at least do something about my weight.
That next day, I joined Weight Watchers and a gym (another mom thing to do), and I went into it with blind determination, that salsa singer in the back of my mind. I worked my butt off and changed the way I ate. And I was rewarded. In a little less than four months, I lost 40 lbs. 40 lbs! I was lighter than I’d been in high school!
There was this moment in the dressing room when I was buying new clothes because my old ones were literally falling off of me. The last time I’d gone shopping, I’d been a size 16, but I knew I’d lost a lot, so I grabbed a size 9, praying they’d fit. When I tried them on and they were too big, I squealed! I told Dan, get me a 7, and they fit! I walked out of that store with a new self image that day! But it was only the beginning.
I started reading style and makeup books (this was before blogs), and learned how to do my makeup and what to look for in clothing. And I began to take small steps. I bought high quality jeans with better cuts. And I branched into a wider variety of shoes. And I saw a change in my husband’s eyes.
I realize now, that in my mind there was an image of what mothers looked like (the same one in the heads of those who are shocked that I have 4 kids), and that I had taken that image on as who I was. I was a mom, I saw that picture when I thought about the definition of mom, and so I manifested that image on the outside. I felt like anything other than that image wasn’t reality. So in a way, I was trapped in that image.
Now I want to be clear, Dan always loved me, and was always very sexual with me. But when I lost all my weight, became more stylish, and walked around with 100 times more confidence, he had a hunger for me. The look he’d give me was like he was going to tear my clothes off with his teeth. And I loved it! I no longer felt threatened by that hot salsa singer. I was the hot salsa singer.
I know, I know. Many of you are probably thinking about how sad this story is. That my husband should love me for who I am, and that I shouldn’t value my appearance or the opinion of others so much. But I don’t play in the ideals game. I play in the personal truth game. And my personal truth is that the mom image brought me down and made me feel like less of a person. It was the “supposed to” in my life put onto me by the story I’ve been told. And when I do an Evaluation and the appearance section comes up, I know that I need to feel attractive. That attractiveness offers more than sex or favor. It gives me more confidence in all areas of my life, because I look at myself and love what I see. It’s the truth in me that sets me free to admit. Yes, I am attractive for having four kids. But I’d prefer to be thought of as attractive. No subtext.