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The Mother in the Mirror
I remember each of my children coming into the world, like it was yesterday. All seven of them. Each time, while still in the hospital, I would gaze in sheer disbelief that they were here. Healthy and strong. And each time I marvelled at the ability of my body to sustain and carry them for nine months.
As mothers, we get home from the hospital and experience all the highs and lows of those first few weeks and months of motherhood and it is the most exciting, exhilarating, scary rollercoaster you will ever ride. But there is another aspect of that scene rarely, if ever, talked about, and that is acknowledging that the reflection we now see in the mirror is not one we can fully identify with.
Yes, I said it out loud. After having each of my children, I didn’t like the body I saw in the mirror looking back at me, even though I was staring at a mother in the mirror. Did she really say that? Yes, I did.
Yes, I felt so grateful, each time that this body had carried my child, but I didn’t love what I saw afterward. Yet, I felt ashamed feeling this way. After all, we are bombarded with statements and images on social media reminding us that it’s not about that. It’s about being a mother. Embracing the new normal. This is the body you have now, and you should appreciate it and not look at it is feeling like you wish it was different. Motherhood is not about that. It shouldn’t be your focus. That is the narrative we are relentlessly presented with, so to have feelings to the contrary can seem unsettling.
Well, I want to flip the script! So many times, women lose themselves in motherhood. It can feel all-consuming. Before children, you may have been a vibrant, creative, vivacious woman. You had goals and time, an agenda, a social life, and you looked and felt amazing. You worked out, you ate well, you practiced self-care and you could identify with the person in the mirror.
As a mother with 1,000 balls in the air, possibly feeling so far removed from the ‘old’ you, I want to remind you that you still are that woman. From personal experience, I can say, without embarrassment, I have felt overwhelmed looking at my physical appearance after having children and feeling that, looking back, I could not identify that woman.
You see, society will tell us that a woman’s body is amazing. It creates and carries life! What an incredibly empowering experience to be a part of. But the story should not and doesn’t have to end there. My body has carried seven children, sustained them for nine months, and brought them into the world. And even after that, all the weight gain, the stretching, the eating, the births, simply by unapologetically prioritising exercise and nutrition, I am fitter, stronger, healthier, and more energetic than I have ever been.
If I can do it, anyone can. I say these things only to inspire other women. Even if reading this, your default reaction is ‘I just don’t have time’, then I urge you to never ever underestimate the power of small changes. I work out almost every day. At home, with children everywhere, interrupting me, walking in front of me, but I do it.
I do a mix of yoga, Pilates, and free weights and I NEVER work out for more than about 12 minutes. I am making it doable, instead of making an excuse not to do it. Not only is this small change affecting my physical health but, more importantly, it has a lasting impact on my mental wellbeing. It feels great to show up for myself in this way and I am doing it right smack dab in the middle of family life.
I want every mother to know it’s ok to want to look better, to want to look like you, the you that you see in your mind’s eye, to want to feel attractive and have confidence. These are legitimate feelings. And they most definitely do not make you selfish. When you look at yourself as a mother in the mirror, what do you want to see? What actions can you take to make this vision come true?
Very often I hear the line, ‘You don’t look like you have seven young children!’. Why is this? What should a mum of seven look like? Exhausted? Bedraggled? Downtrodden with no energy or self-esteem? Do you feel this way? Have you relegated yourself in order to promote your family? Has the ‘you’ from before you had children become less and less visible?
It’s ok to admit it, if they have. But start now. Set yourself a goal. Do it for you! Decide how you want to feel and how you want to look and start to make decisions to facilitate these feelings every day. As a mum, you maybe feel like there is no space in your life for anything else. Push past that excuse. Everyone can find 15 minutes in the day. Hold yourself accountable to these 15 minutes and fight for that girl who you know is in there bursting to get out.
Your body is a powerhouse. You are managing your family every day. You juggle, organise, plan, cook, clean, motivate, problem solve, and conflict manage every day. As mothers, we should be standing unashamedly shoulder to shoulder with the greatest, most inspirational women of our time. Don’t apologise for wanting to be the best version of you.
Our bodies are so much more than the vessel used to birth our children, so don’t let the story end there. Be the mum who fuels her body, who pushes her body, who is bursting with energy to play with her children, who eats well and hydrates to be the best version of her.
And, most importantly, don’t just survive – thrive. And be proud of the mother in the mirror.
About the Author
Name: Emma Lewis
Professional Title: Motivational Speaker for Mothers
Bio: Emma is a busy mother of seven children under 12 and a voluntary motivational speaker. She encourages women to reject the negative depiction of motherhood being fed to women daily on social media.
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