The Mommy Mirror
During a typical hectic morning characterized by me hollering, frantically packing lunches, running around the house like a maniac looking for misplaced shoes (when will I remember to lay everything out the night before?), and likely even cursing under (or over) my breath, I realized my nine-year-old had been upstairs for a very long time.
“What are you doing up there?” I yelled upstairs with irritation.
“I’m comiiiing,” she called back with equal irritation, adding syllables in seemingly impossible places.
When she returned downstairs, she was wearing a different outfit and different hair accessories.
“Why did you change clothes?” I asked, frowning.
She sighed. “I don’t know. I just didn’t like that outfit.”
I started paying attention, and over the next few days and weeks, I noticed a pattern that I had somehow missed before. Every morning while I toasted bagels, brewed coffee, and tossed a variety of (nutritious! organic!) food pouches into lunch boxes, my oldest daughter was scrutinizing herself in the mirror.
She began complaining that she didn’t like her hair. It flipped out funny, she asserted (the two of us share the same stick-straight, fine hair). She wanted me to curl it—like, with an actual curling iron like my mom used on me in the 1980s. She wanted me to put tea tree oil on the tiny red dots on her nose. She didn’t have the language for it, but I did—she had become self-conscious, seemingly overnight.
And I didn’t like it. I wasn’t ready.
I felt compelled to give her a pep talk about beauty and the ridiculous, insidious messages women receive from the media about appearance and perfection. How could my daughter be subscribing to this already?
And then I looked in my own mirror. How often did I stand there, scrutinizing the bags and wrinkles under my eyes, brushing my eyebrows into submission, applying makeup of all varieties and two (fine, three) different types of hair products? I was no shining example of transcending vanity.
When I think about it, even at age 37, I am plagued by feelings of self-consciousness and critical self-talk. My stomach is squishy. My hair looks awful today. Seriously, what is going on with my eyebrows, I just got them waxed!
I have to do better. I’ve taken my own beauty routine down a few notches. Sometimes I go to sleep with wet hair and wake up and go. Most days I leave the house with fresh, clean skin and only a coat of mascara. I don’t criticize myself. It’s a step in the right direction. One afternoon, my daughter told me that she and her best friend, Emily, had been talking about their shared insecurities.
“Emily said, ‘When we’re college roommates, I’ll curl your hair, and you can straighten mine.’”
My eyes filled with tears. The compassion and wisdom in that statement gave me hope. They’re talking about this stuff! Perhaps that’s the best tool I can give my daughter—the opportunity to talk with me honestly about her self-consciousness.
I’ve been inspired by these two nine-year-old girls: girls and women alike, let’s share those ugly thoughts we have, get them out in the open and support each other through them. Let’s send a message that we’re not going to let unhealthy, unrealistic images of beauty wage war on our self-esteem and shame us into silence. Let’s speak up, and remind each other that we’re not alone in this.
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This post was written by Stephanie Sprenger exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.