Traditionally, this is a time of year when I hate my body. Swimwear, little summer dresses and shorts take no prisoners and, the truth is, the body I now have at the age of 32 after growing two babies, is very different from the one I had ten years earlier. However, over the weekend something changed. I didn’t lose any weight or suddenly tone up all my wobbly bits, I just gained a bit of insight. There was a lightbulb moment and, I guess, I just stopped caring so bloody much. In short, I got a grip.
The moment came when I saw a photo on my phone that the NLM had taken of me and the girls at the weekend. When I came across it my instant reaction was to delete it. (To be honest, that’s often my instant reaction with most photos of myself. I’d say 90% of the pics of me never make it past my trigger happy delete finger.) But as my thumb hovered above that little trash can icon I paused; I took a closer look at the photo and realised I didn’t hate it all that much. In fact, I actually kind of love it.
Look at the photo above and tell me what you see.
I’ll tell what I saw when I first looked at it: untoned thighs, a very ordinary and non-Instagrammable size 12 Mum Bum, the slightest hint of shadow of an overly protruding vein at the back of my knee (thanks pregnancy!), a little roll of back fat and a pair of rapidly developing bingo wings.
That’s what I saw at first. And oh how sad that makes me. Because, on that first glance I missed the joy in this picture.
I ignored the clear blue skies and softly lapping waves. I didn’t spot the two little paws clenched in my own. I was so focused on my bad posture (hunched shoulders, bent back) that I failed to realise exactly why I was standing like that: I was looking down at the shallows checking for stones as I made sure two pairs of little feet didn’t get hurt.
Rather than seeing an ordinary but perfect moment captured on my phone, I chose instead to focus on the imperfections. And when I say “imperfections” what I really mean is “ordinary”.
We’re so inundated with ideas of the perfect body that it’s easy to think these so-called ideals are the norm. But I can bet you any money that if you go to most beaches (not Miami – that doesn’t count) you’d struggle to find many people with chiselled abs, washboard stomachs and toned arms. As I negotiated my way into the water at Looe beach on Sunday I was so focused on helping my girls that I didn’t bother to look around me and check out everyone else in swimsuits. But if I had, I’m sure I would have been met with an array of vastly different body shapes. (And, by the way, every one of those people was probably too busy doing their own thing to notice me and my wobbly Mum Bum.)
Once I noticed the beauty in my photo I started to smile. Everything about this picture is my life right now. From the panic-bought swimming cozzie offering “extra support”, (FYI – trying to dispel a toddler tantrum while half-naked in the Next changing room is a whole new level of headache), to the scraped back ponytail (no time to straighten my hair that morning), to the little people at the end of each arm. This is me.
And that body with its wobbly bits and less-than-toned areas is testament to who I am right now too. It’s the saggy boobs from breastfeeding, the wobbly tummy from growing and housing two babies and the Mum Bum from lack of time to exercise an hour every day. It’s worked hard, this body of mine. It might not be all chiselled and sharp and toned but when I think of what it’s done for me over the past six years I reckon I should be prouder of it now than ever before.
So the photo didn’t get deleted. In fact, quite the opposite. My Mum Bum dodged the trash can and made it to the internet, where it’s currently been viewed by over 30,000 people on Facebook and received one of my highest rates of engagement on Instagram. Long live the Mum Bum.
If you’re currently shuddering at the thought of baring all on holiday then remember this: your body is amazing, no matter what your size or shape. Most people on the beach or at the pool will be too busy thinking about their own body hang-ups to notice yours. And, aside from dudes on Miami beach or models in swimwear ads, no one in real life actually struts around like a peacock on the beach anyway – we’re all too busy trying to get the sand out of the suncream and stop our kids throwing themselves into the ocean.
Love your Mum Bum, that’s what I say.