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21st Apr 2021

My toddler hugging my ‘mum tum’ is the best self-esteem boost that there is

Melissa Carton

Your body changes a lot when you become a mum.

After giving birth to two children my body is far different from what it was before I became a mother.

My boobs are bigger, my hips are wider and my stomach is stretched to the point of no return.

Most days none of this bothers me but there are times I catch myself looking at other women wearing form-fitting clothes or bikinis and I suddenly feel very self-conscious

As a grown woman I know I shouldn’t give in to these feelings but sometimes it can be hard not to.

In an era full of photo editing apps, waist cinchers and every diet you can imagine, it’s hard not to feel imperfect in a world that strives for perfection.

It’s another way in which the world often shames mums. Everywhere you look there are stories about how quickly a celebrity mum’s body bounced back after she had given birth.

Even in the labour ward mothers are expected to look perfect with more and more mums getting makeovers and spray tans before giving birth so they can look perfect in their photographs.

We say each to their own, we say there’s nothing wrong with it and essentially there isn’t until that is we take into account the ripple effect that it creates.

I would never blame another mum who simple wants her lashes done before labour for making another mum feel bad about herself, I just wonder what makes mum feel like they need to get themselves done up in the first place.

I’ve never known a dad that worried about what he looked like in any hospital photos when his baby arrived but I’ve known many mums that have.

Too much pressure is put on mums to ‘bounce back’ after giving birth and unfortunately a lot of us, myself included, fall into this thinking.

Recently I started feeling self-conscious about my stomach and hips. I think it’s mostly because it’s the summer and short clothes are back in.

The other week it was extremely warm so I decided to put on a pair of shorts. They made it as far as my thighs and stopped. Not a chance I was getting them up any further. I tried a skirt I hadn’t worn in a little while and the same thing happened. It might sound silly but I got really upset.

I suddenly felt huge and unattractive and I wanted to cover myself up as much as possible. Unfortunately, it was still incredibly hot so I gave in to throwing on leggings and a sports bra even though I really didn’t want to.

The kids were playing outside but at one point my toddler came into the sitting room where I was sitting on the sofa. I was leaning back on the sofa with my stomach completely exposed.

It was then that my little girl climbed up onto the sofa beside me and put her head and my belly snuggling in tight. In that moment how I saw my stomach changed.

It went from being this awful thing to being a cosy safe space. At that moment I was reminded of why I had my ‘mum tum’ to begin with. That it had always been my daughter’s safe space because that’s where she first knew me.

Since having my kids I’ve tried so many things to help how I felt about my body but the answer was right under my nose the entire time.

Seeing one of the most important people in my life love me unconditionally, mum-tum and all, made me realise that all other opinions were insignificant.

It didn’t matter if someone thought I looked fat in my Instagram photos or if my love handles liked to hang over the top of my underwear.

The person who I loved to the moon and back loved me for all my wobbly bits and not in spite of them and that’s a much better self-esteem boost than any editing app.

I won’t lie I still sometimes have my feeling frumpy moments and I do sigh right before I have to do a deep breath to zip up my jeans, but I don’t beat myself up like I used to.

I accept that my body will never be the way it used to be because my life is not the way it used to be. Slim, flat stomach me was a different me at a different time in my life.

The me I am now is a mum with of course a ‘mum tum’ and I refuse to allow feel bad about that any longer.