I scheduled my 20-week ultrasound for May 23, 2014, because it was my birthday. That morning, we found out that “Baby Marshall” would be a perfectly healthy little one–what a relief and a great birthday present! The technician wrote down the sex of the baby on a notecard, folded it up, handed it to us, and sent us off with her well-wishes.
My husband and I took the secret note to Village Inn so we could enjoy the big pink-or-blue reveal privately, over pancakes and eggs. I nervously opened the note to find out we would be having a GIRL (my secret preference all along, which only made the birthday present of a healthy baby that much sweeter), and after breakfast we took a trip to the Coral Ridge Mall to buy our first newborn outfit.
Though I was so excited about my daughter, I was also a bit worried about bringing a girl into the world. So I instantly set some lofty goals, because I want her life to be the best it possibly can be.
Goal #1: I am going to raise a daughter WITHOUT ANY body image issues.
VERY lofty, I know. Also maybe not possible given the pressures young girls face. I remember being told at work that when we set our yearly goals, they have to be measurable, realistic, and achievable, and I likely set a goal that doesn’t meet these criteria. There were so many pressures for me as a girl nearly 30 years ago, and the pressures seem to have increased tenfold with the advent of 24/7 social media, which so many young people depend on for self-validation.
So how am I going to raise a daughter without body image problems? I don’t yet know. I’m sure every mom wants the same for her daughter, but it’s so hard to achieve. My daughter, Kate, is a month out from turning two, so I haven’t had to get started much yet on launching a full-blown plan for this goal. She’s still too young to face peer pressure, “mean girls,” constant media portrayals of the ideal female body type, the desire to get triple-digit “likes” on a filtered Instagram selfie, or negative self-esteem.
Right now she’s a carefree little tot with a bouncy blonde ponytail, collecting rocks from the garden, begging for more chocolate milk, and pulling the cats’ tails when she thinks no one is looking. She also loves to pull up her shirt and show off her belly button, so she certainly doesn’t have any hang-ups yet, since that belly is so big! She seems to be her most confident in her swimming suit. But I know she’ll quickly grow up and start school where the desire to fit in starts early.
Since she’s still little, I’m just starting to pull together my ideas. But I’d rather launch a plan early rather than late. In 15 years or so, we’ll see how successful I was….
So, below are my six ideas for how I will raise my daughter to have a healthy body image and positive self-worth.
6 Keys to Raising Daughters to Have a Healthy Body Image
1. I will not discuss any body image issues I may have and will not discuss fad diets or trendy exercise plans. I will focus our discussions on generally eating healthy and staying active.
2. I will provide healthy home cooked meals and opportunities for fun physical activity like dance class, walking to the park, going swimming, and running around outside. I will try to develop naturally occurring healthy eating behavior, including moderation. (A cupcake during someone’s birthday party is totally fine; a cupcake as a standard daily snack is probably not.)
3. I will just get in my swimsuit and get in the pool already. Thankfully I did much better with this goal over the past summer and actually swam instead of reading my book poolside in a cover-up.
4. I will discuss what’s real and what’s a photo-shopped illusion in magazines and on TV. I will also discuss the benefits celebrities have over “regular people,” i.e. home chefs, personal trainers, makeup artists, and wardrobe stylists.
5. I will make it clear that she should not tolerate any negative comments about her body or looks. I’ll keep a pulse on her self-esteem and institute an open-door policy where she can come to me with any anxieties.
6. I will make it clear that there’s more to being a girl than just being pretty, and that it’s far more important in the long run to be smart and kind. I will encourage her natural interests and get her involved in activities she enjoys so that she can develop strong talents and build confidence.
Again, in a decade or two we’ll see if I did a good job, but I’m hoping to raise a beautiful young woman with a soaring self-esteem, a variety of interesting habits, and a kind heart.
Parents—what are the ways you’ve raised your children to have a high self-esteem?