I was at the pool this morning with the boy kiddo, our first swim date since the baby was born. It felt good to be out with him, giving my little fish some much needed one-on-one time doing one of our family activities. He dove for rings, flung himself off the side of the pool with reckless abandon, and clung to my neck in the deep section, whispering “I just love to swim Mama” in my ear.
I mostly followed him through the water, keeping close in case he needed me (he is a good swimmer for a three year old but not someone who can handle deep water by himself). I mostly forgot to be self-conscious about being in a non-maternity, non-skirted bathing suit for the first time in months and months. It is probably a hold over from my past as a competitive swimmer that even though I can feel very aware of, and discouraged by, my current shape in almost any outfit, I usually forget myself in the water. I feel too at home there, I think.
And then a woman in a bikini walked in. She looked, well, like what we all would hope we look like in a bathing suit. Perky boobs, toned stomach, curvy hips. Unlike most of the women at the pool she walked confidently around the pool deck with no cover up on, seemingly comfortable in her own skin…and why shouldn’t she be?
(Side bar: I know we should all be comfortable in our own skin. I get that. But, realistically, it sure seems like it would be easier if I looked like that. )
She was also carrying an infant car seat. She set the baby down facing the pool and it was obvious that this was a fairly new baby (3 months old, I later learned) and for a brief, discouraging moment, I kind of hated her. Like her svelte body was an act of aggression against me and my soft belly and fleshy thighs.
I hate when I think that way. It isn’t fair to her– who knows how hard she’s worked to look that way, what she is giving up (sleep? reading? Bagels and ice cream and cookies?) to look that way? Who knows what she sees when she looks in the mirror? She was certainly thin and toned before she had the baby so maybe she feels like she is still trying to get her body back.
But all that doesn’t even matter. Or, at least, it doesn’t matter for me. Her looking the way she looks isn’t an indictment about the way I look. It just doesn’t work that way but it does challenge me.
I think it can be easy for me to just surrender to feeling like I’ve given up on looking nice. I feel frumpy, so I choose frumpy clothes and then I enhance the frump factor by not ironing them. I look in the mirror and become discouraged so I have a cookie or a handful of chocolate chips and I blame that fact that I’m breast-feeding and that I have an infant for the fact that I feel puffy and tired. And while those things don’t help, I have to acknowledge that the sweet tooth that lay dormant for most of my pregnancy is back in full force now and I need to decide what I’m going to do about that.
And these are all things that have nothing to do with how good someone else looks in their bathing suit.