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The most important post you’ll ever read.

Fat Mum Slim /

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I didn’t know parenting a five year old could be so much fun. To be honest, I’m all about the baby. I love those gooey little chubby legs, their first words, and the neediness. When I was a nanny I’d tell parents that I ‘specialised’ in newborns to 3 years old. How professional!

I’m an early morning person, I love to get up before the sun and get my things done. It’s when I’m most creative and productive. Usually it’s just me, the couch, some trashy pre-recorded TV and dark skies outside, but lately things have changed. I’ve had company. I sneak out quietly at crazy o’clock, and a little five year old follows not long after. As I type this she’s snuggled up next to me.

Our conversations have changed too. I’ll ask, “What do you want for lunch?” And she’ll reply with, “What do you want for lunch?” It goes around and around until she has what I’m having. In the mornings when I get dressed she’ll watch me, and then scoot off to her room and put on as near a match to my outfit as she possibly can. It makes it hard when my ‘uniform’ is mostly black and her wardrobe consists of mostly pink, but somehow she does it.

It hit me like a tonne of bricks the other day, when I’d only been slightly aware of it before, I’m her biggest role model. I’m aware of all the things I consciously teach her, like how to have good manners, how to clean up after herself {yeah, failing that one!}, how to ride a bike, how to play netball, how to be a good listener… but there’s all that other stuff she’s learning from me that I probably didn’t realise I was teaching her all this time.

Things like how to love yourself, which I’m no good at at all. Well, the loving yourself part, not the teaching her of it. Although I don’t have the self-love that I want her to have for herself, I’ve always made an effort to not let it show. I don’t throw “I’m so fat!” tantrums in front of her {they exist mainly in my head} and I try not to negative self-talk in front of her. But I started to wonder how much of my everyday behaviour is creeping in for her to learn from. What am I teaching that I didn’t realise I was?

And then I read the most important post I’ve ever read.

Dear Mum,

I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful – in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.

But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ”Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.”

At first I didn’t understand what you meant.

”You’re not fat,” I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.” …

It’s a most brilliant piece by Kasey Edwards. You can read the rest of it here.

Yesterday the bigger kids at Lacey’s school brought a make-up kit in and were doing the little one’s make-up {with our permission of course}. When Lacey was done she looked at me with heavy, sparkly purple eyeshadow smudged across her lids and brown eyeshadow masquerading as blush in messy circles on her cheeks, and asked, “How do I look?”

“Just beautiful,” I responded.

And then I wondered, what if she thinks she’s only beautiful when she wears make-up? Should I even be using the word beautiful at all? Should I have told her that she looked intelligent and swayed away from the aesthetics? Yes, another mama freakout moment crept in. They happen.

That afternoon I put all the worry behind me, as I took stock of what a confident little girl I was raising. She’s everything I wasn’t as a child; a sweet extrovert with sass, confidence, self-love, and self-belief. And then there’s the things I was; kind, thoughtful and considerate, and a keeper of a messy room. Well, there’s some things you just can’t change.

I don’t know a perfect parent, I’m certainly not one. I think for the most part we’re doing the best we can. And while I can pinpoint things that happened as a child that shaped the person I am today {for better and for worse}, I wouldn’t be who I am today without those things. And I’m doing OK. As long as we’re aware of the role models we are, and the things we’re passing on to our children and making positive changes to do better, isn’t that a good start?

What sort of role model was your mum? Do you feel her behaviour defined the way you think, or the person you are?

  • Michelle W

    My Mum is a perfectionist. Always was and still is. I am a perfectionist, but I am fighting the extreme manifestations of this for my own sake and for the sake of my girls. My girls (10 & 5) are perfectionists, and daily I am telling them that things don’t have to be a particular way, or perfect, to be beautiful and wonderful. My Mum believes that everything SHOULD be a certain way, there are not two or three ways to do something, there is only one right way. Less than 100% is not acceptable. I struggled with this. I still find myself striving for 110% in everything. I tell my kids that the outcome compared to others is not the important thing, you don’t have to come first in the race, or win the prize for “best”, what you do need to do is do your own very best. If you do your own best, you have won already, regardless of the outcome. I grew up in a safe, clean home, where I knew I was loved. I think I was lucky. My struggles for self-acceptance and self-love are small problems compared to many others.

    As for the “You’re beautiful” comments when our girls come out of their bedrooms dripping in “jewels” and covered in make-up from forehead to chin… that’s what they want to hear, and it makes them happy. πŸ™‚ I also often say, “No matter what you wear or what make-up you have on, you are always beautiful, because you are beautiful inside, and that shines out of your face.”

  • Dear Boy is only one and a half, but I can see that my behaviour is mirrored in his. I am also aware that I’m a role model for him in terms of the women he’ll have in his life. I’m his model for how a woman should treat a man and how a woman should be treated by a man – what I accept, what I ignore, what I put up with, what I fight against – that all has an impact on the way he’ll see the world.

  • Mez

    Perfect. Thank you. x

  • Being the mum of a 13 year old teenage boy with attitude and a 15 year old teenage boy with autism I tend to take one day at a time and roll with the punches. I know I’m not the most perfect mum out there but my kids (both of them) are turning into confident, strong, kind human beings and even though we have “those” days… I am always proud to be their mum… Beautiful post Chantelle! Xx

  • Like you, when I had my daughter, I decided I would make every effort not to complain about my body or talk about other people’s bodies in front of her. Because my mother did and it definitely effected me.

    We try to teach both our kids, girl and boy, to try to find ways to describe people other than by their bodies or skin color. It’s hard for all of us, because what we see is the easiest way to do it.

    On the other hand, some physical description should be OK too.

  • Jo

    So beautifully written Chantelle. My daughter is now 29 and I am seeing in her all the things I hoped she would be and wonderful traits that are hers alone

  • bec

    My mum is a very strong women. When I was little, I used to sometimes see her strength as “meanness”. She wasn’t a mum that would cuddle you, she didn’t have time. Later I realised she had to be the strong one. My dad was good cop. He was fun, and soft and easy to manipulate. Both my parents worked full time, but mum also organised the 4 of us kids.
    I am also a very strong women, and I owe this to her, she showed me how to be. Ive just tweaked it a bit. I am a mum that cuddles my boys, even now, as they are turning into young men before my eyes.

  • Kasia

    Chantelle what a beautiful post! It rings home for me because I have a 5 year old who also tries to dress alike, and copies my mannerism, my words, my gestures, mimics my expressions. That I often worry about how my behaviour around and towards her affects her? My consolation is that She has so much spunk, and innocent self love, she is so much braver than I ever was as a child, yes even smarter than I was (to be honest even smarter than I am now lol), that I hope she will manage to hold on to all that wonderfulness. and I hope I can help her to nurture this, and not wreck it by saying something negative that could shape her life, her self image, her self worth.
    Chantelle, that snippet of the letter by Kasey, that you shared with us, just shows how a little insignificant, moment, a sentence, word that we as adults, role models, parents say without giving it another thought, stays with our children, and carries over with them through their life. It impacts them profoundly…So let’s be kind to ourselves, believe in ourselves, love ourselves, so our children can grow up and be exactly that! Kasia

  • Johannes

    Well done. Be easy on yourself; you’re fine.

  • Nutty Tart

    Very nice to read this piece Chantelle. My Mother didn’t think she was significant or important enough which is very sad. She grew up in an era where her job was to make sure everyone else was ok. I didn’t learn to love myself and like you Chantelle, I am aware of just how powerful the mind is…positive self talk all the way. My daughter was taught to love herself and that beautiful comes in many forms including inner beauty, attitude and how you treat other people with respect. One thing I have learnt is that if you have self-love, anything negative that comes your way tends to bounce off and not be absorbed. Little eyes and ears absorb everything, so whether we are the parent or someone to look up to, positive messages build well-adjusted young adults. We are all awesome.

  • I worry about that makeup/jewellery/beautiful association too. I find a lot of other people tell her she’s beautiful or pretty when she’s put a necklace on, but I tend to find I say things like “oh isn’t it sparkly!”… but wonder if I’m worrying too much! I’m sure people said the same sorts of things to me as a kid and I honestly don’t remember and didn’t get a complex about it πŸ™‚

    • True. True.

      I just remember, being the only fat sibling out of 4 kids, hearing that thin was beautiful and fat wasn’t {but I had a pretty face!}. Not by my parents, more grandparents and strangers.

      I think I might go the sparkly, colourful, descriptive route instead of pretty/beautiful. So simple. x

      • yeah, like we’re addressing the prettiness, but not necessarily making it about them physically. Come to think of it, I do remember all the people who told me how skinny I was. I was always teased for it too. But I don’t remember anyone telling me I was beautiful if I had a necklace on or whatever. I don’t know, it’s tough raising girls huh x

  • My mothers measures everyone’s beauty/worth by their weight. I was constantly told growing up “don’t eat that, you don’t want to be fat!” even the other day when I told her how much Jarvis eats in a day her response “oh he is not going to be a horrible fat child is he?”
    No surprises my two sisters and I have always had weight issues. Even though she will be 70 next year she still will not eat foods such as cake, icecream, chocolate, even sauce or butter on her food.
    When I became a mother to a girl I knew then and there the cycle had to stop. Yes I tell Tamika she is beautiful, but I also tell her she is a strong amazing woman.

    • A life without cake and chocolate, no thank you. πŸ™

      I’m so sorry that you had to grow up with that. It’s how a lot of people think… and it’s so sad. And it’s hard to fight those stereotypes too.

      • It is okay, as I now ensure our house is never without chocolate or dessert!

  • Kate

    Hi Chantelle,

    Thanks for sharing what so many of us mums grapple with daily. I wonder if you’ve come across Brene Brown and her CD called the Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. I think you will love her work – it certainly has had a big impact on how I live, love and parent.

    • I’ve heard Brene speak and LOVED her, and I have some of her books – but not the parenting one. Thank you!

  • missandmisters

    Love this post. But here’s something to add to the discussion
    It really challenged/inspired me.

  • VΓ’nia Trindade

    Hello dear, it’s the first time I am answering your posts (I am following your blog for months).

    My mother is my best friend… also was my father but he died early and since then I’ve been a daughter, mum and friend to my mother. She’s a tough women because her childwood wasn’t easy. She started working when she was only 11 years old to help her parents and sister’s and didn’t stop since then. She and my father were the best parents I could have, they taught me everything, gave me superior education even having money difficulties, taught me to love, to express myself and fight for what I want.

    Now I have a 10 months baby and I wonder… he’s having everything, toys, nice clothes, things I didn’t have. Is he will fight for what he wants?… Like they taught me? I hope so… I hope I can raise a child who can dream and make that dream reality.

    [Sorry if my english isn’t the best! I am portuguese.]

    • Having been a nanny, and been around lots of privileged kids I think I learned a lot about people going for what they want, rather than just being given it. The family that I worked with for a long time were all about hard work, and making things happen yourself… and that’s one of the best lessons in life. Of course it would be nice to be given everything, but where’s the pride in that?

      The love you have for your mum oozes in your comment. It’s beautiful. x

  • Jette

    That post came in perfect timing: I had the same considerations this morning, when my nearly three year old ran to the bathroom to apply some blush and eyeshadows. It was all innocent and play (and the blush was used like a cream, so she had some lovely pink spots on her throat) but I had exactly the same thoughts: Should she learn that before you leave the house you have to “paint yourself”? Thanks for sharing!

  • Such an important message. I try to teach my daughter to be confident and have self-love but I’m definitely guilty of not always demonstrating that myself.

  • Ida

    My first memory of my teenage years are the many many fights and arguments I had with my mother about my weight and my grades in school. I wasn’t a skinny kid, and around age 10 I started to gain a little more weight. Not a dangerous amount but I could see my mother measure me with every look she gave me. We have always had our issues, and since my older sister has always been skinny and brought home good grades, I felt I was being compared to her and fell short. I never compared myself to her, I never envied her, I am glad for her that she never had to go through those arguments, cause I know that I am the stronger one, I was able to stand up for myself, more or less. But I think no kid should have to do that. The family should be a safe environment. I still have weight issues, and still, my entire family comments on it as if it was everyone’s business. I am still insecure about it and sometimes feel like I’d be a better version of myself if I lost the weight. I just talked about that with my friend yesterday and said that this is the one thing I want to give my children: the feeling that they are perfect the way they are. Especially when a little weight gain at this age is basically normal for some kids. It was still baby fat and I am pretty sure, if my mother had left it alone it would have disappeared all by itself.

    • Absolutely! I want to applaud your comment. This! “Especially when a little weight gain at this age is basically normal for
      some kids. It was still baby fat and I am pretty sure, if my mother had
      left it alone it would have disappeared all by itself.”

      My siblings and I are all very different, well they all have darker hair and are trim and fit, and I’m the blonde-haired, chubby one. Always have been.

      I’ve learned a lot and am trying to make things different for Lacey. I know that if I’d just had a little more healthy living practices brought into my life back then, then it would have made a big difference to me. I have a syndrome that means I put on weight easily and keep it, which I got from my dad. So being overweight was inevitable – but dealing with it could have been better, I guess.

      So, I’m aware that Lacey might have the same thing – and it’s been a learning curve for me to do things differently for her. To raise her in a safe environment. And now bringing in another baby…

      Anyways… I’m rambling. Thank you for your comment. xx

      • Ida

        Thank you for your comment on my comment! All the way from Australia to Austria. πŸ™‚ Gotta love the internet!
        It’s really great to read about how reflective you are on your behavior, I wish my mom had reflected more on hers back then. It is amazing how much stepping back in a situation with children, thinking “what am I doing here?” and comparing it to our own experiences when we were that same age can help change how we view things. Keep doing what you do, you are a great mom and I wish you the best for you and your loved ones! xoxo, Ida

  • Michelle W

    Chantelle, I wanted to add something about telling your daughter she’s beautiful. I was never told I was beautiful or pretty while I was growing up. The only comments about my appearance were through my teenage years of me being “too skinny” or “putting on a bit of weight” (never just right). I grew up thinking I was, at best, plain. It took me until I left home in my late teens to start to understand that I might be attractive, maybe even a little pretty. It is not a bad thing for a girl to be told she is pretty, so long as she is also praised for other wonderful attributes such as kindness, grace, honesty, integrity, persistence, resilience, etc.

    • Absolutely! So well said. I was told I had a pretty face, and still get the same but never beautiful.

  • that’s an amazing post, chantelle. i guess a lot of us are not aware of how much of a role model we are for the little ones we take care of – as a mama, nanny, au pair, babysitter, big sister. they watch every step we take, every move we make, listen to every word we say. even the littlest things. they copy them and sometimes we don’t even realize some things we do until they copy us.

    about telling them they are beautiful… i once read an articel/blogpost about that. it just came to my mind as i was reading your post. let me see if i can find it… found it. Joanne of A Cup of Jo wrote that post about How to talk to little girls after reading another article on the huffington post site. I thought it was a great post and made me think about it. Of course it is important to tell little girls they are beautiful but maybe more in ordinary situations and not just when the wear something special.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that piece. I loved it. It’s good to get the mind thinking…

      I found what you wrote: “they copy them and sometimes we don’t even realize some things we do until they copy us” to be so true. It sometimes the smallest things that they take on, a reaction, a word. We don’t have to be perfect… but it’s just interesting to know what an impact we’re making.

  • Melissa Long

    First off, I must tell you that I have spent most of the afternoon reading posts from your archives! I found you this morning via a blog that was on the blog roll of a blog I read regularly (whew, that’s confusing). I was seduced by your photo challenge but have stayed on to read more and I’m officially hooked! So hi, from Indiana (USA)!

    My mom is a great role model for me in terms of strength and resilience. I think I’ve learned a lot about who I want to be by what I’ve watched her overcome in her life.

    No parent is perfect, but as you say, if we are aware and try to always do better, it’s a good start!

    • Hello! Thank you for hanging around and reading all my… stuff. I loved hearing this. πŸ™‚

      Awareness is such a good start, I think. So glad your mama was a good role model. x