When I look at pictures of myself my weight is the first thing I see, but I don’t want it to be the only thing I see.
“We have to snap a picture of this!” my mom shouted, scrambling for the phone I had left on the pool deck.
“Look over here!” she said, pointing it my way as she squinted in the sun.
It was my daughter’s first time in the pool and I smiled widely as she splashed in my arms. A water lover myself, I relished that my baby seemed to following in my swimmer’s footsteps. We were looking ahead to a long future of summers in our pool together, and my mom was right — capturing that first dip in the pool was essential.
And when I looked at the photo while scrolling on my phone later that night, it should have been a picture-perfect summer moment. I should have exclaimed over how cute she was, and how special of a memory it would be, or how lucky I was to have her, my rainbow baby.
But there was only one thing I could see in the photo, and it wasn’t my baby’s adorable dimpled grin, or her chubby legs sticking out of her swim diaper, or her delight to be in the water.
It was my weight.
Call it being well into my 30s, call it having five kids, or call it pandemic stress enacting a toll on my well-being (or let’s be honest, a combination of all three), but whatever you want to call it, the fact of the matter is that I’m not exactly feeling comfortable in my own skin these days. As a mom, I know that’s not a feeling that belongs to me alone.
And allow me to be candid: My not feeling comfortable in my skin has nothing to do with what I look like — my days of caring how flat my stomach is or how much I can dress to impress are gone, if you get my drift. I’m a “ma’am” these days through and through, and I’m not pining for my lost girlish figure.
But looking at that picture that day in the pool, I felt ashamed. I felt a crushing sense of failure. I felt as if whatever else I have managed to accomplish in my life doesn’t actually matter unless I make sure that I’m at the “right” weight.
Sure, I’m healthy. Sure, I was lucky enough to be able to carry five babies into the world, and sure, my husband loves me and never treats me as anything other than a queen. Sure, there are actual real issues in the world that matter a whole hell of a lot more than what I look like in a bathing suit.
And yet, somehow, when I saw that picture, it was like everything else just faded away. Like my extra pounds swelled up even more, spilling out over the pool, and taking over everything else that matters.
I’m frustrated on so many levels that when I look at myself in a picture — even with my beautiful baby in my arms — all I see is my weight. I’m frustrated that I even care.
I’m frustrated that staying thin seems so easy for other moms. I’m frustrated that none of my clothes fit. I’m frustrated that so much of my life has been consumed by worrying about how my body looks.
I’m frustrated that I try. I’m frustrated because I have daughters I have to set an example for, and I worry I’m passing on my own issues to them.
But most of all, I’m frustrated that I let a few extra pounds on my body, when my baby isn’t even a year old yet, dictate my self-worth.
When I look at a picture of myself and only see the rolls on my back, or the cellulite on my legs, or my arms looking very much like the stocky peasants I imagine I derived from, I’m looking right past everything else that makes up a mother.
I’m looking past the children I have birthed, the nourishment I have provided with this very body.
I’m looking past the work I am able to do to support my family, the hours logged carving out a new business that was once only a dream.
I’m looking past the countless roles that I, and so many other mothers fill, from CEO of my household to chief decorator to meal-planning master to my kids’ safe place to land to plop-down-on-the-floor-to-color-with-my-kids artist to, yes, housekeeper and snack supervisor.
I won’t ever say that feeling good in your skin doesn’t matter. And I won’t say that I’m not open to some improvements I could make to my own life.
What I will say, however, is that if you’re like me, and you’re dreading looking at pictures of yourself, whether it’s in the pool, your holiday pictures, or just that one photo your kids snapped when you didn’t realize they had your phone, let’s acknowledge that sure, like me, maybe your weight is the first thing you see.
But don’t let it be the only thing you see. Because there’s so much more that the camera doesn’t capture.
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of five. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.