76. Becoming a Curvy, Confident Mom

76. Becoming a Curvy, Confident Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Becoming a Curvy, Confident Mom

Everybody has a part of her body that she doesn’t like, but I’ve stopped complaining about mine because I don’t want to critique nature’s handiwork.

~Alfre Woodard

When I look at a portrait of my family today, I smile at the happy tableau — my husband and I stand proudly in the center of the photo with our beautiful daughters surrounding us. It’s not what you would have seen a few years earlier.

Then, you would have seen our three beautifully outfitted little girls with matching bows in their hair standing around their father, who stood in the center in his neatly pressed shirt. Then, hiding in the background, you’d see me, wearing a sweatshirt and maybe mismatched socks. The expression on my face would have said it all: “I do not want to be in this picture.”

Growing up, I was the only curvy member in my family. “It’s just baby fat,” my mother would say. “You’ll grow out of it.”

As a teenager I loved shopping at the local mall with my friends and longed to wear the same outfits as they did, but when I looked in the fitting room mirror those clothes never looked the same on my curvy frame.

“Someday, I hope I have a daughter. I will take her to the mall and make sure she has all the fashionable clothes I never got to wear,” I used to tell myself.

“Someday shopping” would be fun in the future, and when it wasn’t for me.

As fate would have it, I did not have one daughter . . . I had three! Dressing my girls became my full-time passion. I loved putting them in beautiful dresses; I wanted them to grow up with the confidence I never had and be proud of their appearance. I still didn’t have that confidence. If I bought something for myself, it was at the last minute and whatever fit or hid the body I never came to terms with. No one is looking at me anyway, I thought.

As my girls grew they wanted to pick out their own clothes, which I knew was the natural order of things. However, I was surprised when they only wanted to wear their ripped jeans and T-shirts. On holidays our home became a battleground when my former little princesses wanted to put their hair in ponytails and just wear what was comfortable.

One time, I had a fight with my oldest daughter about why she couldn’t wear her pants with a giant stain to our holiday dinner.

Frustrated, I confided to a friend about how I was feeling. I will never forget the way she gently put her hand over mine when she replied: “Raising a daughter,” she said, “is a lot like looking in the mirror. We cannot give them what we are unwilling to give ourselves.”

Her words hit home in a way I could not have expected. It was me, she pointed out, who was showing my girls what it was like to be a woman, and it was my behavior they would imitate. Not taking care of myself and how I looked was not taking care of them. If I did not love my curvy body, how could they grow to love the body types they were given?

My friend may have thought I’d be insulted by her words, but I was grateful. In fact, it was the highest compliment I had ever received, telling me that I was such a crucial element in their young lives.

After that day, I embraced the responsibility of being a mother to three teenage girls in a new way. I made peace with the woman in the fitting room mirror.

At the store, I did not buy the first thing that fit me anymore — I experimented with clothes that celebrated my curves instead of hiding them, and I tried colors other than black. I discovered I looked nice in patterns and bright hues. I enjoyed looking for accessories and punctuated my outfits with scarves and glittery earrings.

I experimented with clothes that celebrated my curves instead of hiding them, and I tried colors other than black.

As the people around me noticed my efforts, they complimented me and it felt wonderful. Someone told me I looked taller, and that made me laugh. I knew I was walking with greater confidence and with my head held higher. Even my daughter’s friends were excited by the changes they saw. I could tell my own girls were proud of how I looked.

My new behavior had a trickledown effect on my girls. As they moved through their teen years, my daughters began taking pride in their figures and spent more time caring for themselves and how they looked.

Today, if you look at our family pictures, you will see a curvy, confident mom standing in the center, smiling and happy to be there, with her proud family around her.

~Elizabeth Rose Reardon Farella

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