So, inspired by a recent Huff Post Parenting article called “Moms, put on that swimsuit!“, I’ve decided to show solidarity; I’m sharing some photos of myself at the pool.
I’m kidding. Of course I’m not going to do that. I’m not insane. Like the mum who wrote the article, I spent every sunny day of the holiday in the pool with the kids, but the photos are staying safely offline.
I wasn’t always so self-conscious. I wore bikinis before I had kids, and I continued to do so afterwards. As the years rolled by and the number of kids increased, the level of covering up crept up too. Sarongs were never far from reach; shorts were kept on until the last minute, and I stocked up on tank-tops. But still I braved a bikini, every year; wearing the battle-scars of motherhood with at least a small degree of pride.
Then last Summer, for the first time, I found myself looking around at other women and comparing. I felt conscious of every little lump and bump – three kids in five years can do that.
Discussing this with two friends some months later, I expressed how uncomfortable I had felt wearing a bikini last Summer, and said that I was resigned to this being the new reality. My friends both looked at me in amusement, and asked “But why do you wear a bikini? Why don’t you wear a swimsuit?”
I stopped to think about this. Why indeed?
I think it’s partly out of not wanting to give in – feeling that since I wore bikinis before I had kids, I shouldn’t have to change now that I’m a mother. The feeling that once I threw in the proverbial (beach) towel, that that would be it. A slippery slope to mammy-style; soon I’d be going out in slippers and putting rollers in my hair.
And more than that – it wasn’t just about letting myself down – I felt an internal pressure to not let the side down. To stand together with other mums who aren’t going to cover up just because their stomachs are no longer flat. We’ve had children for goodness sake, of course they’re not flat. But we’re not hiding away – the bikini stays. In fact, I felt I was almost taking a feminist stand – and yes, the irony of wearing a bikini for feminism is not lost on me.
My friends looked at me, still very much amused at my stance.
“I never wear a bikini – I wear swimsuits; they’re great,” said one. “Me too,” said the other, “much better than feeling self-conscious. Much more relaxing. And there are gorgeous swimsuits in the shops.”
Ah. The magic word – shops. So I dug out some old swimsuits and invested in some new ones. And I loved wearing them. I loved jumping in the pool with Clara, and I loved sitting on the side dangling my feet in the water with Emmie and I loved paddling in the baby pool with Sam. No fake-it-till-you-make-it walking around the poolside trying not to look self-conscious. No hesitation when the kids called me to jump in the pool with them. No self-conscious arms covering a less than perfect stomach – my four swimsuits did that admirably, leaving me free relax. And by relax, of course I mean free to spend the day running around chasing kids and not relaxing at all. But you knew that.