Last week, Babble contributor and writer Anna Lind Thomas — the hilarious mama behind HaHas for HooHas — posted what has got to be the most jarring confession on Facebook that I’ve seen in a long time. In it, Thomas calls out a certain common behavior that a lot of moms are guilty of (myself included), and it has a lot of us thinking long and hard about what exactly we’re teaching our kids.
In it, Thomas shares that her toddler daughter was recently playing around on her phone when she clicked on a photo of Thomas that the mom of two didn’t even know existed. A photo that she later declared was “the worst photo I’ve ever seen of myself.”
“I saw this photo and I thought, ‘There’s no way that’s me,'” she admits. “This was more than an angle … it was, I can’t put it into words … it was round, rotund, boobs down past my waistline, thighs like an oak tree, hair like a Brillo pad, and I had a sour look on my face.”
Thomas goes on to speak candidly about all of the self-depreciating body comments that fell out of her mouth immediately after seeing the photo: “I’m looking at this photo and I’m just like, ‘I look huge, I’m like 800 lbs. … what, are we gonna need to cut out a wall [to get me out]? Hope we don’t have an emergency … ‘ I’m just being nasty. I’m not proud of the stuff I said.”
But it was at that very moment that her husband stopped her, and said something she’ll never forget:
“‘I need you to do me a favor,'” Thomas recalls her husband saying. “‘Don’t ever talk about yourself like that in front of our girls again, because they’re listening.'”
Turns out, that was the wake-up call Thomas needed — and she took to Facebook to spread the message far and wide, reminding other moms of what all this negative self-talk really does to our kids, and especially our daughters.
“Listen, when our babies see us, we are the most beautiful thing to walk the earth,” Thomas says in the six-minute-long video. “And if we’re disgusted with ourselves and think that we’re way too gross to wear a swimsuit or way too fat or our cellulite is disgusting and blah blah blah, they’re gonna look at the most beautiful woman in the world and say to themselves, If she thinks she is ugly then what am I?”
She’s totally right, mamas. I for one do this ALL THE TIME, without even realizing. Just a few days ago, I literally grabbed my belly and shook it while groaning loudly about how I need to go on yet another stupid diet. But Thomas is calling on women like me (and herself) to rethink that behavior for the sake of ourselves and our kids — and honestly, I am picking up what she’s putting down.
As a mother of three and a wife to a super busy husband, it’s so easy for me to forget that anyone is listening to me when I banter on about things like the girth of my waistline. But Thomas knows what it’s like to forget about all those little ears tuning in, too.
“I think when we believe and say horrible things about ourselves, we’re doing it almost subconsciously,” she tells Babble. “All of our pain, fears, paranoia and cultural indoctrination seeps into our skin, our muscles, our bones and eventually, makes camp in our subconscious. When we see something and perceive it as validating our worst fears about ourselves, our subconscious mind takes over and just starts spewing the lies we’ve allowed to be implanted in it. That’s why I make such a concerted effort to control my thoughts and not let them run wild. I can’t control a nasty thought as it comes in, but I can sure hold the door open and boot it out before it makes a home in my subconscious!”
Amen. If we’re going to start paying attention to the language we’re using in front of our kids, then it helps to be cognizant and mindful about the exact kinds of messages we are sending to their developing identities. For Thomas, that means teaching her girls that life is meant to be enjoyed.
“I want my girls to see that it’s just not that serious,” she tells Babble. “I want them to see me enjoy life and a good french fry, but also witness me loving myself by being disciplined — caring for my body and limiting bad habits like emotional eating. I want them to witness me making efforts to be active, while not sweating the small stuff like cellulite. I want them to see me enjoy a piece of cake with all my heart without being desperate to eat four more.”
“But most of all,” she continues, “I want them to know that I think I’m beautiful, that I love myself enough to want to care for my body without obsessing about it, and that I treat myself like I would treat my most beloved friend — with kindness, but by also laughing real hard at a ‘bad’ picture and then moving on without a care.”
The main point of Thomas’s amazing video? It’s pretty simple: We can be the best role models that our kids need — but that starts with honoring and loving ourselves as much as we honor and love them.
“I remember when I was little, I loved my mom’s hands,” Thomas tells Babble. “I knew everything about them, from her nails, bones, cuticles, and veins to the soft pads of her finger tips. They represented love and comfort to me as she held me or soothed me. If I had also heard her complain about how ugly she thought her beautiful loving hands were, it would have confused me and hurt my feelings.”
Thomas says she tries to remember with her own girls, who right now are likely memorizing parts of her, just as she did with her own mother.
“They the swoop of my nose and the chip of my tooth,” she says. “My huge smile and sounds of my boisterous laugh. My awareness that they are so aware of everything about me is the first step in making sure I treat someone they love so much (me) with the utmost respect. There’s a reason why ‘do as I say, not as I do’ never seems to work.”
Ain’t that the truth.
Her final message of wisdom? If Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy.
“I’m making a pact today to cut that crap out, and I want you to make that pact with me,” she concludes in her video. “No more! We’re only gonna talk about ourselves with love.”
I for one am with her on this one, and my only hope is that more mamas start getting on board, too.