Body Image

There’s Nothing In The Mom Contract That Requires You To Wear A Swimsuit

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woman in pool

I have seen a great many blog posts over the years about moms feeling bad that they do not want to be seen in a swimsuit in public. They guilt themselves because they want their kids to have memories of swimming with mommy. It usually ends with some warm and fuzzy anecdote about ditching the cover-up and braving the beach, tummy rolls and all, so that the kid is happy and the mom guilt can vanish. I don’t find this inspiring and I can honestly say that I don’t get it. If I felt self-conscious about my body, I would not feel any need to wear a swimsuit in public solely for my kids’ happiness. Kids won’t have any idea that you have body hang-ups unless you say so. Why torture yourself and feel exposed and nervous for their benefit? Do what makes you feel comfortable and don’t worry about them. We don’t have to overcome everything for our kids’ sake.

A mom wrote in to Dear Prudence worrying about her kids developing body image issues because she won’t swim with them:

Q. Wear a Bathing Suit for the Kids’ Sake?: I have little kids who enjoy swimming at the local Y in our small town. My husband swims with them, but I don’t because I don’t like being in a swimsuit in front of my friends and co-workers. I am quite young but I have hirsutism, a C-section pouch, and am severely overweight. I am otherwise not socially retiring, and I’m happy to work out in the gym in a T-shirt and sweatpants, but I never wear tight or revealing clothes. I am not able to afford cosmetic treatments that would alter my appearance. My husband says I should get over it and come swim with my kids so they don’t develop the same body image issues themselves that I have. I haven’t told my kids the reasons for my discomfort, only that there are fun things they do with Dad and other things they do with Mom (which is true for other activities too). What do you think? Do I owe this to my kids, given how much pain and professional embarrassment it would cause me?

I have a lot to say on this subject but first of all, would we ever expect our kids to embarrass themselves for our benefit? For example, I would find it thrilling to see my daughter sing on a stage someday like I did growing up but if it made her tremendously nervous, would I force her to do it to make me happy? Absolutely not. Why are a mom’s feelings and concerns worth any less than that of her kids? We are still human beings too.

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