Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

On Mother’s Day: The Beauty and Challenge Of Mothering

Ah, Mother’s Day. Some argue that it’s just a day created by marketers to get more sales while others see it as a sentimental favorite. Whatever your views, today is a great time to think about the beauty, strength, and challenge of motherhood.

The sexualization of women and children in the media is one of the things that challenges mothers for a couple of reasons. The first is that mothers themselves, as females, are very strongly impacted by the sexualized images and stories that the media tells. With the advent of the “Cougar” and “Hot Mom” personas in the last few years, mothers feel more pressure than ever to meet the media’s standards of beauty. Even women who don’t buy into the beauty myths still feel their pressure. One friend of mine said, “It’s hard for us to teach our daughters not to think that their appearance is all that matters when we’re struggling with that ourselves.”

From features such as “The Hottest Moms over 40” to the never-ending “Hot after baby” stories in magazines ranging from OK! to online sites, mothers feel the pressure to meet unrealistic ideals. This article from Popeater does its best to question the reality of these post baby reveals, which are usually filled with diet and exercise tips. Ok! ran a story about Kourtney Kardashian’s post baby weight loss with a cover photo that had her photo- shopped into oblivion. This was pointed out in this article on Huffpost Entertainment, and you can clearly see how unrealistic the photo-shopped image is next to the real image of her.

But being a new mom isn’t all about losing those baby pounds as fast as you can, and being a mom over 40 isn’t all about trying to stay sexy. Yes, we all want to be healthy and strong. But being a mother is about WAY more than how we look. Instead, motherhood is about the joy and fear of holding your new baby for the first time and wondering how on earth you’re going to do this. It’s about taking care of sick children when they wake up at 3 am, soothing bumps, bruises, and broken hearts. Motherhood is teaching your children to believe in and stand up for themselves, and giving them opportunities for wild success and gentle failure so that they can grow to be strong and independent. And motherhood is not about perfection. No mother is perfect; in fact, we all mess up everyday. But most mothers are doing their best to love their children and to help them become strong, competent adults.

Today I can’t help but think of my own mother who dreamed of being a medical doctor, but instead became the mother of 5 children by the time she was 28 years old. I remember when I was in Kindergarten and my mom went back to college. She was determined to finish, and eventually earned her degree and two graduate degrees, all while raising us, loving my dad, and working most of the time that I can remember. Was she perfect? Heck no, but neither am I as a mom. But what my mom did was, she believed in us. She supported us in any endeavor, and she pushed us when we needed it. And, I’m so thankful to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loves us with all of her heart.

These are the things that I want to be as a mother: caring, loving, supportive, encouraging, and so many more. Frankly, sexy and hot are not on my list of motherhood requirements. A woman who loves her family and gives her heart to them will be beautiful. Mothering is often an extension of who one becomes through the relationship with our child’s father, and I hope fervently that being sexy in that relationship is an important part of our lives. But, it is not everything that we are. Our appearance and our sex appeal are so far away from solely defining the strong, funny, caring, feisty, determined, loving mothers that I know.

Let’s let go of this pressure to be perfect and look perfect. Here is what I have to say to you: YOU WILL NEVER BE OR LOOK PERFECT, and that is okay. Instead of seeking that, seek to be the best you that you can become, for that is when you will find peace within yourself and your own mothering. Marianne Williamson has a well-known quote that says,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us….Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I know that not all of us had mothers who taught us this message, and we won’t teach it to our own children everyday. But I challenge all of us, on this day of thinking about caregivers, to remember that caring for others involves caring for ourselves. To do that, we must focus on our own authenticity, instead of shallow, surface things. Don’t be afraid to shine, to let your true and glorious self come forward. It is only through the daring adventure of becoming oneself that one begins to change the world. As Joan of Arc would say, do not be afraid, you were born to do this!

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4 comments on “On Mother’s Day: The Beauty and Challenge Of Mothering

  1. Jennifer it all boils down to self-esteem and if you are happy with the way you are and look then the images you see will not affect you. mums let our chidlren see that we are and they will be too.

  2. Colleen
    November 4, 2012

    HI. Thank you for the article. It is beautiful but a little misquoted. I adore Marianne Williamson but she most certainly did not originate the quote in this article. It was none other than Nelson Mandela, in his Inauguarl Speech in 1994. God bless him.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      November 4, 2012

      Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for sharing. I read this in Marianne Williamson’s book. She has also confirmed that the material is from her book A Return to Love.

      http://forum.quoteland.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/99191541/m/3471911041

      “Posted by Marianne Williamson on July 21, 1996 at 09:56:08:
      In Reply to: Mandela’s speech posted by Bill Cecil on July 20, 1996 at 17:57:49:
      Dear Bill,
      Yep, that writing is two paragraphs from my l992 book “A RETURN TO LOVE.”(In the WORK section, in a chapter called PERSONAL POWER) Seeing it printed everywhere as a Nelson Mandela quote has been a rather strange experience .. he definitely did not quote it in his inaugural, by the way. I have heard that he used the material in a lesser speech (so said his office), but I have never seen the text, so I don’t know what the context or attribution was.
      Thanks for the compliment.
      Please keep visiting.
      My best,
      Marianne”

      So…since I read the passage in her book, I’ll leave the attribution to her.

  3. Crystal Smith
    May 14, 2013

    Beautifully said Jennifer. I am so tired of the “post-baby body” stories that line the checkouts at the grocery store. If only the people in big media would promote your perspective instead of the superficial nonsense they have become known for.

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