Motherhood changes a lot of things. While most of it involves a lot less sleep, a lot more poop, and insurmountable joy, there’s one thing motherhood changes that almost every woman struggles with—the mom bod.
Whether it’s excess skin, excess weight or just tiger stripes where things were once was flat and smooth, motherhood changes our bodies. Though it’s done something incredible—grow a baby from the inside-out, and provide every nutrient they could ever need to get them started strong—women have a tendency to find shame in their new skin rather than empowerment.
That’s where Kara Lawler was at with her body after becoming a mother.
But her perspective changed one day with a trip to the waterpark.
Her daughter had been born just a year before, and feeling “embarrassed” in her own skin, Kara made a conscious effort to cover up her “squishy” body as best as possible. Forgoing her swimsuit, she opted for a tank top and skirt.
It didn’t help that the waitress at the restaurant where her family ate dinner the night before referred to Kara as “big-boned” in their conversations.
“That server’s words—the words of another mother, no less—rang in my mind as I stood choosing what to wear this afternoon. I’m a person trying not to be at war with her body, and I’ve been doing well, but her words were like a match, lighting a new fire of self-doubt—and I felt consumed by it.”
Silently fighting herself internally, Kara looked up at the splash pad to see another mother—one who unknowingly would help her overcome the mental battle she was facing.
To the mother at the water park she writes:
“I saw you there today at the water park. I saw you there, in your navy blue and turquoise bathing suit, with your small boys, running and playing with them. I saw you stand under that giant bucket of water with them. I saw you play in the fountains of water, tossing your head in laughter. I saw you, not caring at all about what anyone thought. And I admired you and felt ashamed and stupid for being in my skirt and tank top, sitting on the sidelines, while my husband played with our kids. My husband had even come to tell me that I should hear my small daughter squealing as she played in the water.”
That was all it took. The confidence of another mother—not one who looked like she had it all together, or one who had a perfect body herself. But a mom whose joy radiated out of her, and made all of her own imperfections invisible. Watching the mom at the water park run around with her two sons made Kara recognize the true weight of what she’d been carrying. And in that moment, she let go of it.
“And so I ran into the water sprinklers. I played with my kids. I soaked my skirt and laughed at how silly I was for not wearing my bathing suit — and I even said this to you. You smiled and said, ‘It’s OK. I understand.’ And we shared a knowing look. The look women share when we really understand one another. And I felt at peace, for the moment, with my body. I wished, then and there, that I could put on my bikini and run with abandon alongside you in yours.
Having a daughter, and being an English teacher at an all-girls’ school, Kara wants to provide a good foundation and an excellent example of knowing and loving your body.
“I want these girls of mine—daughter and students alike—to know that their bodies are the homes of their souls and the homes of their minds. For each, her body is simply a vessel for the woman she is. And my cellulite, my stretch marks—the signs that I’m a mother of two—are just outer marks on a body and a mind that have done some hard work.”
Kara made a decision at the water park that day. The decision to never “sit on the sidelines again.” Instead, she will find joy in the little things, because in the end, they are the big things—the memories that make a childhood, and the simple pleasures in life.
“I won’t deny a pool date because I don’t want to wear my bathing suit. I won’t skip the ice cream with my son when he begs me to eat one with him. I won’t enter calories on my phone. I will wear my bathing suit. And I will do it and remember you, the mom at the water park today—and the role model I must be for all my girls.”
As she made the vow to herself—a vow for change—Kara held her tired daughter, and they watched as a purple butterfly fluttered past them.
“Butterflies are a symbol of a change of consciousness and a new beginning. How fitting on a day when I vow to wear my bathing suit with pride. And how fitting that my daughter’s bathing suit has butterflies on it, too.”
In the depths of her discomfort and self-consciousness, Kara found peace. Peace in knowing that our bodies are incredible. They do incredible things, and they house far more wonderful things than the negative thoughts that ring the loudest.
May her words and experience help you find joy in the things that matter today. And may we all stand together bearing bathing suits with pride, abandoning the sidelines and lifting each other up.