Every time I respond to someone's inquiry of how many kids I have, my answer is always followed by a "Oh, you don't look like you've had three kids!" comment. Knowing these people mean well and truly believe they're giving me a compliment, I always graciously smile and let out little chuckle.
Translation? That's an uncomfortable laugh with an intense desperation for a quick distraction.
You can't help but feel a bit objectified when you watch someone visually trace your physical outline to determine whether or not your body resembles that of a woman who grew and birthed three babies. This notion of what a mum's physical appearance should be only adds to the heavy judgement we already experience as both a parent and as a woman.
I wouldn't call myself an overly sensitive creature, but I can't help but wonder what a mum with three kids (or any amount of kids) is "supposed" to look like. Is the amount of kids a woman births directly proportionate to how "shitty" it's acceptable for her to look? If I were a mother of only one or two children, would their surprise and awe be suppressed?
When we envision mothers, what do we think? Overweight? Dishevelled mess? Are they walking around in frumpy clothing with faces looking worn out from exhaustion?
Alternatively, do you picture a June Cleaver whose look is always on point with no signs of stress or fatigue, no hair is out of place, and it's obvious they keep an immaculate household? Why are there any expectations of what a mother should or shouldn't look like?
Some days I have my sh*t together and somehow manage to make it out of the house in an outfit that isn't covered in spit up or crumbs. Other days, I'm a walking definition of a hot mess express.
And don't get me started on the insecurities many of us carry around. Am I proud of my body post-kids? Absolutely! Stretch marks, loose skin, and whatever other war wounds are proof of how extremely strong I am and how incredible birthing three children is.
With that said, being pregnant and giving birth has significantly altered my body, and after the third, it's almost unrecognisable. That can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
With each pregnancy, I gained at least 22 kilos, and although it took nine months to pack on, it took a hell of a lot longer to shed. Embracing each of my babies while breathing in their intoxicating aroma was more than worth it, but I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't difficult to digest the aftermath of my body as I attempted to put Humpty Dumpty back together again while drowning in defeat as I walked around with the lowest self-esteem.
Let's not forget the impossibilities of self-care when you're spending the majority of your time and energy fulfilling the needs and demands of your family. I'm too busy making sure everyone else is bathed, clothed, and fed that more often than not, I forget to think about myself.
Haircuts are happening maybe twice a year and these brows resemble overgrown toupées above my eyes. New clothes are a rare commodity and I often just throw on something stretchy and baggy because comfort is always in style.
Some days I try. I have extra energy and my children cooperate in granting me uninterrupted time to put some effort into pulling off a desired look. Other days, I don't give a f*ck. On these days, I either could care less, am too tired, or my children require my complete attention without a break in sight, and I'm lucky to even get a shower in.
Regardless of what kind of day it is and my resulted look, it shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter how many children I have and how "put together" I look.
Let's disregard this idea of what mums and women should or shouldn't look like. We're already our harshest critic, and knowing others are ready and waiting to criticise is something we all could do without.