Today I have a guest post from Seattle-area journalist/blogger and new-mom Kris Hill.
Yesterday I got my hair cut for the first time in nearly year. In fact, the last time I got my hair cut was the week before I went to Las Vegas on vacation last March. I go to a local place called Julie’s Salon where they cut my hair exactly the way I want it and it looks awesome. Plus I don’t pay a mint. I’m always happy when I leave.
My favorite thing about getting my hair cut is when the finishing touch is put on it; the flat-iron is pulled out to make my wavy hair straight as an arrow. I love my hair when it’s super straight; it’s almost serious looking all on its own when it’s that straight. In fact, I envy women with straight hair.
This morning, I knew the straight hair would be gone not long after I got out of the shower, and I was sad.
That got me thinking: why do we do this to ourselves as women?
I know that when I tell a girl friend I wish I had straight hair like hers, she tells me she wishes she had wavy hair like mine. Or when I lament my fair skin and freckles another friend says she envies my complexion. We are constantly longing for something we can’t have — another woman’s hair, skin, metabolism — and it got me wishing that we could all just love us for ourselves.
In America, not only does the female gender want physical attributes we can’t have, but as women we seem to have made a sport out of it and quite a competitive one at that.
Somehow, it seems to get worse when we have children.
As a new mom, it hasn’t gotten too bad, yet. But there is definitely an urge to compare my daughter to my friend’s new babies.
My little girl, Lyla, just passed the two month mark. We took her in for her two month check up and she 9 pounds and 21 1/4 inches long. At birth, she was 6 pounds, 9 ounces and 20 inches long. I have two friends from high school who recently had baby girls, the third child for both ladies, and at birth both girls were a good two pounds bigger than Lyla. As we each have taken our daughters in for check ups, the vital stats have been posted to Facebook, and I can’t speak for them but I know I’m quietly comparing Lyla to their babies.
Part of me thinks, “Woohoo, I had a tiny baby! She’s so easy because she’s so much smaller!”
Another part of my inner conversation points out that it’s weird Lyla wasn’t bigger since I’m diabetic. Obviously I didn’t eat enough while pregnant. No, no, that can’t be it. I did very well. And on it goes. Finally I tell my inner conversation, “Shut up! Lyla is awesome and perfect just the way she is right now.”
I hear it gets worse as kids get older once you get to the phase where you have birthday parties.
Yeah, as parents, we get into competitive birthday party hosting. Wow. I am so not looking forward to that, especially since the part of my personality that comes out when I get competitive is petty, ugly, snippy, and well, downright immature.
A while back, before she was born, I decided that I would try and tell my daughter as often as possible that she’s awesome and beautiful. In order to do that, I have to remember to not get sucked into the competitive comparisons moms unwittingly get themselves into as their kids grow up and hit developmental milestones.
My sister keeps telling me that I need to raise Lyla to be a strong, independent woman and I totally agree with that so I think a key to that will be showing her by example that there is no need to constantly compare herself in a negative way to her peers.
It took me a long time to feel good about myself and seal up the cracks in my self-esteem after it got dinged up by a variety of factors that too many women are all too familiar with like sexual abuse, negative comments from my mom, bad examples from media and cruel behavior by my peers. If I can help Lyla avoid or minimize all that and grow up to have a healthy self image where she doesn’t feel compelled to habitually compare and criticize herself for things that are out of her control, then I feel like I will have done a good job as a parent.
I guess it will have to start with my next hair cut and liking it when my hair springs back into waves.
Now is the time to embrace my beauty for what it is and remember that I love myself for who I am, wavy hair, freckles and all.