Parenting changes things. I’ve made peace with the fact that for the next several years, “sleeping in” means getting up at any time after 6:30 am and that even a quick run out to the store requires a diaper bag filled with toys, snacks, extra clothes and Mr. Bear. I can even cope with listening to the not so soothing voice of Elmo instead of watching HGTV. But this summer I am drawing a line in the sand when it comes to my bathing suit.
I spent the last two summers unhappy come swim time because I stupidly let my fear of what others think of me matter more than my own opinions. I had a male friend in graduate school who once commented to me that he loved how his mother, despite her former status as a beauty pageant queen, stopped wearing two piece swim suits after she had children, not because she was uncomfortable with her post partum body, but because as someone’s mother she should dress modestly. While I scoffed at the time (and mentally crossed him off my list of potential boyfriends) this idea of the modest mom at the beach stuck with me. After becoming a mom myself and talking to other mothers both online and at the playground, I realized this is not an unpopular opinion. Even though I’ve always loved wearing a bikini, once I had kids I started to worry that other people would think it was weird to see me in a two piece.
I’m not a mom who thinks wearing a bikini is a sign of bravery, I don’t have very visible tiger stripes or stretch marks. I don’t stick out in a bikini, I look very average. I’ve simply always loved wearing them regardless of how I look in them because they bring back fond memories of summers spent with friends and family vacations. I feel good about myself when I’m laying by the water with nothing but a layer of sunscreen between the sun and my stomach. Still, I bought into this idea that I shouldn’t wear a binkini as a mom, that people would think I was trying to pretend to act sexy or younger than I was if I dared to put one on for a trip to the pool.
So two summers ago, as a mom to two infants, I decided to trade in my bikini for a sensible tankini. I dragged my family to stores for weeks, never finding anything I loved, before settling on a purple, black and green patterned tankini with a solid black swim skirt that I bought only because I didn’t hate it, and I was running out of time before I left for vacation.
Every single second that I wore that tankini, I felt bad. Besides the fact that the bra cups seemed to be lined with steel wool, I just wasn’t comfortable. I was constantly tugging at the top and adjusting the straps, I hated how the wet fabric would cling to my belly and make me shiver long after I got out of the water. And I felt unattractive in it. We live in a condo with a pool and looking back, I actively made excuses to avoid taking the kids for a swim these past two years because it never felt like summer to me while wearing that swimsuit.
This year I’ve decided not to care about what people think about my swimwear and to do what makes me feel good. I’ve got a bright orange top that seems pretty well constructed against accidental toddler tugging and some black swim shorts that cover enough to make me feel safe bending over. Let my neighbors whisper that I’m too old to dress this way or that I’m making a spectacle of myself with my bare skin and visible tattoo. Moms shouldn’t feel compelled to get a “mom haircut” or dress a certain way if it’s not what makes them feel good about themselves. There’s no moral dress code you have to follow just because you’re a mom. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m being immodest or trying to hang on to my youth beyond my prime years, you can pull my bikini from my cold, dead fingers.