Nobody wants to be a scary mom. Although no one knows what exactly a scary mom is – we all see it differently. It is like a bogart in Harry Potter stories – what you fear most, you instantly get.
To me, being a scary mom meant to be overweight, makeup-free, sweatpants-equipped and no fun. I didn’t want to be fat, dishevelled, randomly dressed and sad. But I ended up with my own Bogart – I scored 4 out of 4 and became all of the above, at some point of my motherhood. Yet, I am not a scary mom at all. I have learned that being one has nothing to do with how you look, what you wear or what your weight is.
- Your weight doesn’t matter
On the day that our daughter was born I weighted 250 pounds. That is about 113 unbelievable kilograms! That day was remarkable – I have never felt and looked worse in my entire life. Yet I have never experienced happiness and pride of this scale either. My child was born, I became a mother, everything else was irrelevant (and I have written on challenges of early motherhood – here).
I couldn’t walk or move much throughout the second part of my pregnancy as I was often in pain. I kept gaining weight – and I kept eating. I remember the day I couldn’t quite fit into the backseat of our spacious car – a seatbelt was too tight and a seat too narrow. Best part – I didn’t realize it. Our mind triages issues skillfully – my weight was about the last thing on my mind when I became a mom. I had to attend to a little human– and this was all that mattered.
Now, I have lost almost 100 pounds since that time (that is over 45 kilos, you guys!). It still feels surreal to think about it.
Although I have had curves all of my adult life, 100 extra pounds worth of curves is a hell of a lot of weight to carry around. Even though I have never been skinny, I wasn’t feeling exactly comfortable being overweight. Nobody would! But the most surprising thing I have learned is that I felt equally uncomfortable even in a smaller, more compact body.
How did that happen, again? I have not exhausted myself with diets or workouts. I spend my days running after our toddler daughter – and my evenings studying for my master’s program. I breastfeed and try (hard!) to avoid sugar – and I also try (God knows how often I actually succeed) to do a little bit of yoga during the week.
A year and a half down the road, I wear size 6 jeans now – down from size 12. I have a few T-shirts in size S – this is a whole new realm for me, as I have never had to worry about my breast size ever since high school. I even have cheekbones now – who knew they were there all this time, hiding?
Now, before you stop reading and start hating – I don’t feel any different. It is a transformational change, but it affected me not in a way I would have expected.
I am a mother now and I have a whole new body to embrace. Enhanced with stretchmarks, scars and cellulite – even though it is a more compact version of me, it is still the same me who inhabits this body. I am still a resident of my head. Although everything below the neck has been adjusted to a smaller size – my mind still plays the same old tricks on me.
I don’t feel more beautiful, more content or more attractive as a result of these changes. I still have the same insecurities and worries. I still have moments of crippling anxiety and experience negative self-talk. I find self-love and self-compassion rather hard to practice (although I have no problem preaching it). I still feel sometimes that I just don’t look good enough no matter what I wear. All this has nothing to do with how much I actually weigh and what I see in the mirror.
A transformation of mind needs to happen – and it is a much more powerful than a transformation of body, no matter how drastic the latter is.
When I say that weight doesn’t matter – I mean it. How you feel matters the most. Your health – physical and mental – are so much more impactful to well-being than what the scale shows. I don’t encourage you to become or to remain overweight if it impacts your health (it certainly impacted mine), but I invite you to see beyond those numbers on a scale. Being scary has nothing to do with what you look like. It is what is inside your head that can be scary. Weight might come and go, but dealing with our own demons is a challenge for everyone who ever wanted to be a little thinner, younger, braver, calmer…
I advocate for transforming mind over transforming body. Going through this weight gaining and losing business made me realize – negative thoughts are much harder to get rid off than 100 pounds! Self-love has nothing to do with how much you weigh. I had the most self-love when I was at my heaviest and I have never loved my body more than on the day it delivered my daughter. Now that I am at my lowest weight in a decade, I still struggle with self-image and self-compassion.
So to all other mothers (and not mothers) out there and who work so hard on losing “those last 10 pounds of baby weight” – be kind to yourself. Consider how self-love contributes to self-acceptance – instead of how little influence this coveted concept of smaller body actually has.
Grow some self-love before shedding those extra kilos. Otherwise your mind will have a lot of catching up to do with your new body. After all, in a constant pursuit of change and fleeting ideals, it is our minds that might need a makeover, not our bodies.
- Your looks don’t matter
Pardon me, but they really don’t matter to others as much as you might think – although they surely still matter to you.
Looks used to be important to me. I wanted to look good – always. In my single life, I used to wear makeup to take trash out – just in case there was a prince charming lurking casually by the dumpster. I have written more about a transformation from a single party girl into a married mother – here.
No one wants to look like crap. No one wants to be judged for how they look – even on their worst days. No woman wakes up in the morning thinking: “Alright world, today I intend to look and feel like shit!”. But sometimes we just do. Some days are hard and nights are sleepless and you still need to scramble enough energy to go on with your day. Every single mother is trying hard. Even that mom sporting stained sweatpants, crocs and dirty hair – hell yes she is doing her best, and if this is how her best looks like today – then be it. I know nothing about what she might be going through. And I have pledged not to judge before.
I might not advocate for crocs and sweatpants, but to hell with what I think if they feel good or if they are the only thing that is clean or fits in your wardrobe. Not too long ago I could only wear my husband’s size 12 shoes and XL tees, because nothing else simply fit. I was too round, too swollen, too big. I felt invisible.
Instead, I advocate for not judging each other based on our looks. It is an easy route– to judge other people based on what meets the eye. I remind myself about the invisible battles everyone is fighting daily. See above for my own. We know nothing about what other people are going through – nothing at all, Jon Snow.
Maybe someday you feel like dressing up for dinner in a nearby restaurant, but there are many days when you are having dinner in your underwear, covered in pasta sauce with a screaming toddler on your lap. At that moment, you are still nowhere near being a scary mom. You are the best mom ever. Even when later you collapse on the couch with Netflix just after everyone is (finally) asleep, you are not scary at all. You are human.
Ultimately, my perspective shifted from wanting to be constantly good-looking to wanting to simply look good – and healthy. Extravagant makeup, funky jewelry, hot shoes and a short dress no longer constitute what looking good is – instead, I try to care more about clear skin, healthy meals, shiny hair and clothes that actually fit my body. I don’t have the coolest haircut or own all the latest MAC makeup like I used to (although I still like both). But I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin.
Maybe, it is all about layers – how many of those did I used to put on so that I don’t feel so exposed and vulnerable? To me, going back to vulnerability is empowering. Writing about it teaches me self-compassion right here, with every word I share.
- The way you feel matters
Finally, it is your feelings that contribute to how you look. Our thoughts, feelings and our body experiences are all connected – this is why a change in the body needs to happen along with a mental shift, or else it was a 100 pounds of wasted effort.
Remember I have started this article by saying how much I didn’t want to be a scary mom? How much I worried about my looks and my weight – and about deviating from what I thought I should look like? We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we constantly gage ourselves against the “should” aspects of the ideal image. We assess ourselves and evaluate others based on that ephemeral standard.
I think I am just about done with hurting myself by constantly pushing that standard out of my own reach. I am tired of feeling that no matter what I do – it is not enough and I could have done or been better. I will never get a 100% there – because attaining perfection is a myth. It is a moving target. I am so, so overwhelmed by this pursuit of being a good-looking girl, a strong woman and a perfect mom. I just want to be me – and most of all I want to be comfortable doing so.
Your weight, your looks and your clothes don’t make you. They are layers that you peel off while you are looking for yourself. Losing a great amount of weight didn’t make me feel any better about myself – old habits die hard. But it surely turned me face-to-face with my own demons and sent me searching frantically for that peace of mind. So I piggy-backed on the massive tsunami of cognitive change that comes along with motherhood. As I established myself as a new mother, I also looked into the old ways of treating myself that just don’t work for me anymore.
I think not only of my own needs. I think about my daughter more than anything. I want to bring her up happy. I want to contribute the best I can into the process of her becoming a kind and thoughtful human – and I am petrified that I might pass along my worries or insecurities to her.
I want to teach her that she is enough – the way she looks and the way she feels. I want to tell her that the worthy change is the one that doesn’t make you just feel better – it is the change that actually makes you better. I want to tell her that no matter what our bodies might look like, it is our mind and our behaviour that create a lasting impact. I want to explain to her that beautiful is not more important than strong, kind, fun, healthy and smart. Finally, I want her to know that our looks will transform throughout our lifetime but our mind is what guides us safely through any changes.
So, I am not a scary mom. No matter what I tell myself and no matter how I look.
But I sure am a scared mom. I am scared that I will not do a good enough job bringing up my little human and that my insecurities might get in a way of doing my best. Most of all, I am scared that I will not teach my daughter how to love openly – self or others…
So I want to be better and kinder to myself. I want to model the message. By embracing myself, I free my mind from this constant discomfort and self-imposed pressure. I am thinking about all that space that is occupied by constant worries and self-criticism. Without it, there would be so much more room for growth, kindness and love. Just those three most valuable things. It is that simple.
You are not scary.
You just need love.
(c) Olga Barrows
Vancouver BC, August 2017