When I became a mom, I started caring a little less about how I looked. Last year, I even gave up shaving my legs.
While there’s totally a stigma about women who rock this look — as there is about moms who let their appearance fall by the wayside — I feel liberated by it.
As a freelance writer and yoga teacher, I’m lucky my jobs comply with this set of standards. No one expects me to be in a pencil skirt and pumps at the crack of dawn and perhaps I’ve intentionally chosen a life where that is not expected of me. I’m comfortable, ready to work, sweat and play, and I honestly can’t imagine another way to be that would fit into my life.
My furry existence
There’s value in feeling good about how you look, that much is true. The person you present to the world and how you wish to be seen is a reflection of who you are inwardly. But personally, I find more value in presenting a person who isn’t ruled by social norms and who is authentically herself than someone who is perfectly groomed. I don’t need to convince anyone that I’m perfect (I’m not), or hairless (no way) or perfectly hairless. And so, my legs stay furry.
In truth, I haven’t been able to find a good reason to shave my legs in years, maybe ever. It was, for me, merely a repeated act of abiding by a set of standards I found no value in. So why continue to do something just because others do it if it lacks importance to me? There came a point as a woman and a parent when I couldn’t justify it.
I don’t believe wearing makeup or scraping hair off your body is a terrible thing — absolutely not. If that’s what makes women feel comfortable in their skin, more power to them. On the grand occasion I have a night out with my husband or with friends, I slap on a little mascara and wear something slimming. But day to day, my appearance doesn’t come into my mind that often. And with everything on my to-do list, I’m glad it doesn’t. Not only because it’s one less thing on the never-ending list of things to do but because my perceptive child takes note.
Messages to my daughter
My 3-year-old daughter loves nature and dirt and playing pretend. But like a lot of little girls, she is also 3 going on 13. She notices everything women do and wants every female priority to be her own. Dresses, makeup, even tampons are fascinating beyond belief. She watches women in bathrooms piling on makeup, walks through aisles filled with beauty products and admires beautiful faces and high-heeled moms clicking through the grocery store. Her intrigue is honest and a reflection of the society we live in, where women in this country spend more money by far on their looks than any other hobby or interest.
So many of these messages, I can’t control — and that’s okay — as long as in my own home, our priorities are a bit different. Yes, it’s fine to wear dresses and skirts and want to put your best foot forward and certainly there are occasions where a little extra effort is called for. But those actions should be for you, not for anyone else, whether you’re 3 or 30.
Kids remind us of how many stereotypes there are out in the world, messages we don’t even notice anymore as we’ve been living with them for years upon years. “Daddy is stronger because he is a boy,” she told me the other day. “Why God, why?” my inner feminist screamed. I grit my teeth and told her, “Well, Mommy’s body can make a baby. It made you and you’re pretty awesome. I think it’s very strong.”
“That’s true, I guess,” she replied thoughtfully.
But our daughters learn those messages quickly and take them to heart. Before we know it, they are begging for strappy sandals, even though they give them blisters and suck on the playground. Girls should be pretty. Little girls everywhere start believing this all the time. Every time someone tells her how gorgeous she is, it cements the idea that she is enough, when in fact, the two things — no matter how true — have not a thing to do with each other.
Parenting’s best gift
I don’t care if my daughter grows up and wears makeup and dresses every day of her life, as long as she is comfortable in her own skin and knows her worth. But as a young child, I refuse to have her so well-versed in what society expects of women that she struggles to see who she wants to be.
“Shave your legs, if that makes you happy,” I’ll tell her. “But don’t do it for anyone else — certainly, not for me.’”
Being a parent forces you to be mindful of things you once took for granted. You come to confront the simplest things that you’ve been doing for years without question once your child wonders “Why?” It’s healthy and good and a lesson in integrity, at least it has been for me.
Finding my truest self has been the best gift about parenting that I never saw coming. I see it as my job to keep digging through the noise. If I want my daughter to discover who she is, then my only choice is to follow suit. My relationship with my daughter and how she sees me will possibly be the greatest influence in her life. I owe it to her to be the real me, hairy legs and all.