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Identity, Self-Esteem, and "Sexiness" After a Child

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi mamas.

I'm struggling a lot lately with the shift in the way I identify with myself, my attractiveness, and my sexuality since I've had my son. He's almost 2 years old and my first one. 

Before pregnancy I had a very high sex drive and was intensely interested in sex, had a comfortable and open relationship with my body and sexuality, and felt fairly attractive most of the time. I even felt this way *while* I was pregnant, though the shape of it (literally) changed.

 

I didn't anticipate such a change for me post-baby. I lost my butt (used to be nice and round and perky, went totally flat in pregnancy and barely came back). This seems so shallow, but it's made a big impact on me, especially because it was one of the features my partner admired most on my body.

And the rest of me just looks and feels so different, after nearly 2 years of breastfeeding and mothering. I don't feel easy in my body anymore. I don't feel like I can just happily flirt. I don't feel sexy. 

None of this was glaringly difficult to me until recently. I've been consumed with baby-care for the past 2 years and my own sexiness was not high priority. But now that my son is getting to be less and less attached to my own body (we're gradually weaning, he spends a lot more time with dad, etc) I am finding myself feeling like a lone used-up version of myself that isn't very desirable.

 

It's so interesting how much these changes have impacted my self-esteem. I am getting a better look at how much self-worth I unconsciously placed on my own sexual attractiveness, so this period of discomfort is teaching me something.

 

Still... I want to hear from some mamas about similar feelings and experiences. I feel like we live in this age of the "MILF" where you are either a "hot mom" or you just disappear into the invisible sexless mom. There is more to it than that and I want to talk about it.

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 11
Ah, yes. I know this well. I'm nearing the 2 year age of my 2nd child and remembering that this is about the time that the physical attachment starts to wane, opening opportunities to be more independent. Have you gone places alone much yet? I have been lately, and am suddenly very aware of male attention that is typically not sent my way when I have two kids in tow. It's pretty awkward to notice, but somewhat validating. I am pretty sure that many MILFs are as unaware as any mother who is mostly focused on the kid(s) in front of her. I can't claim to be a hottie, but I am noticeable- tattoos, modern basic clothing, nearly overweight but average build, rarely in make up. But I am starting to see myself again, especially without kids around, for what beauty I do have. It's amazing how much lighter I feel and straighter I stand when not bound to children. I think it makes a huge difference. I just got dolled up for a job interview the other day, and yep, still got it. It felt good to look nice, have good posture, free hands, and childless interactions with other people. I pretty much never have social time without kids, so it made a huge difference. Step out for a coffee or shopping trip alone and just feel good about yourself. Others just might notice and boost your confidence. I bet your SO will notice, as well. smile.gif
post #3 of 11

I can relate, although my youngest is now almost 5yo, so it's been awhile since I was where you are. I have an almost 12 year old and a 9 year old too, so I've been in the mommy zone for a LONG TIME. I just want to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! When I weaned my last baby, I started working out again for the first time in a long time. I was never overweight, but I had forgotten how capable and strong I can be. And doing something for MYSELF made a huge difference in how I felt about myself.  It's been three years now, and I can honestly say I'm in the best shape of my life. Yes, my body has changed from pregnancy and breastfeeding. My waist, even though I have a good core, is essentially non existent. My breasts? Well, thank goodness for padded bras and bathing suits!! But I'm okay with it, because I feel good and I work hard to feel good, physically. I need a hair/makeup makeover. I'm long overdue, but one thing at a time:)

 

As far as sex goes, I have to say, it's taken until NOW to get my groove back. But I'm kind of weird, I think. It took me AGES to feel comfortable incorporating my breasts back into foreplay. Good Lord, my kids eat from those things! I actually asked my dr. to check my hormone levels at one point things were so dire. But things seem to have fixed themselves.

 

You are in a huge state of transition right now! WHen baby is so young, they are still an extension of you, even though they are gaining independence. You have been solely focused on this little person, and rediscovering yourself will take some time. It will take awhile to get to know this "new" person you are now. But I bet you end up really liking her :)

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Mama Amie and and cristina74754, thank you both so much for your replies!

It's so encouraging just to hear these things from other moms who have been through it before. 

 

Mama Amie: Yes, I've actually had quite a bit of alone time in the past few months since my son's father took over a lot of care. And, yes, more recently I have noticed some of the looks that I don't get when I have my son attached to me. I think I'm still having a hard time processing it, at a loss for how to respond, even feeling embarrassed! Reading what you wrote, I can tell it will take some practice and I'm looking forward to working on it. 

 

Cristina74754: Does it get easier to work out after you've weaned? I've noticed that I'm just spent these days. I have bouts of working out, but I haven't been able to sustain it. Even my yoga practice has fallen by the wayside. It's great to read about how good you feel from keeping physically fit. 

I appreciate the reframing of this as  "new" person. That's how I saw myself after his birth, but somehow I forgot that this body/self continues to change that dramatically and that I can be open and kind to it in the process.

 

Thanks again and I'm still interested in hearing about anyone else's thoughts and experiences around this!

post #5 of 11

As far as the exercising go, I think the biggest shift for me was deciding to make myself a priority! Well, to a certain extent :). I started working out at home because it just wasn't realistic to try to think I could get to a gym or studio, do my workout, and come home. My babies were always very attached to me and it was next to impossible to leave them with anybody. That was hard from me, bcs I def. thrive from a group dynamic. I also realized I simply didn't have time or energy for super long workouts. And I gave myself permission to not be hardcore about the time I was dedicating to it. Another huge shift. All of this was a huge benefit to me, it turns out, bc I got results I had NEVER seen before. Started out with Jillian Michaels 30 day Shred. 20 minutes. Who can't find 20 minutes?? The results were crazy. WHich of course motivated me to keep going. Since then I've done most of Jillian's workouts, but then got bored. Branched out with some trepidation, but have also done two rounds of Shaun T's Insanity and am starting his shorter T25 (only 25 minutes).  The other thing I realized is that I have much more energy during the day. So for me, exercising was best during naptime or first thing in the morning.

 

So the combination of the shorter workout at peak performance time of day made a difference in sticking with it.

 

(And squats will help your booty return to its former glory:) )

post #6 of 11

peace


Edited by Snapdragon - 9/3/13 at 7:52pm
post #7 of 11

Mamaleila this is a very interesting topic and one I have thought about quite a lot over the years.

 

What bothers me: images of MILFs are basically these really fit, long haired, hard bodied, slender women who put a lot of attention into their appearance (make up, clothes).

 

As a haggard, tired mother of 3, I am still a sexual person, but since I don't look like a MILF, does that mean I am not desirable? Can I not be considered a beautiful or sexual person without looking like a hardbody? It feels unattainable, and many of my friends are back to their slender selves after having babies, but I'm not. I'm like 40 lbs overweight. I feel like in our culture unless you look like some porn hardbody you are not considered desirable anymore. I can certainly say the looks from others have evaporated and I feel invisible. 

 

Echoing what others here have said, yes, with more time and energy you can take more care of yourself, exercise, etc.

 

But let's face it. For some of us becoming a mother means massive changes to appearance and for some of us it's a challenge to accept.

 

Sorry if this is disjointed.

post #8 of 11

Also being around your child a lot-- It is only when I am alone with my husband that I can even get into feeling sexy mode-- when I am with my kid I feel in mom mode and those two aspects of myself feel very separate and I like to keep them separate.  I think when our child is older we will have more time just the two of us and then we can enter back into that way of being together more. I think there are cycles in relationships and times for different aspect of us to be in the forefront.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Cristina 47454: Thank you for the reminder to make myself a priority. I always feel great from exercise, and sometimes I talk myself out of doing it when I'm so discombobulated from the day and feel like I'm still not doing *enough* for my child (that's usually irrational exhausted mind talking there). Getting back to it, little by little. Good for you to stay so committed - truly inspiring to read it. Cheers to the squats. :)

 

Snapdragon: Thanks for your thoughts. I don't have a husband, and my relationship to my child's father is slightly complicated - was very suddenly a single mom for the first year and a half of my son's life, was never in a very conventional date-y relationship with his dad, not a really traditional relationship so it's kind of hard to apply the things that you mention though I appreciate the insight. We've only been living together again for the past 5 months and we're working  on a lot of really hard things at the same time. So my son's father and I have had a high degree of turmoil and intensity with one another and we're turning the intensity down which seems to concurrently be turning the *sexual* intensity down (there is so much psychotherapy lit on this it's kind of sadly predictable). There were too many self-esteem squashing moments in the past three years to even count for me and I'm trying really hard to build myself back into the woman I remember. At some baseline of all of this I would really like to feel like that sexy independent woman I did before but it is obviously going to take a lot of time and work. And then I just have these days when I think "if only my ass looked the way it did before, we would be doing alright!" It's ridiculous, but it is where my mind goes.

In the beginning of it all I was feeling so enthusiastic about embracing *all* of the changes and discarding my conventional programming about what "attractive" looks like, but I'm finding how far I have to go with that as time goes on and I see myself standing without pregnancy or new-mama identity to shroud me from the glare of that change.

 

Surfacing: YES. I absolutely love your post here. The MILF image really *is* just a corporate-media patriarchal inspired image of what a "woman should be", another one of those that is really difficult to attain in this reality and not necessarily healthy or well rounded. And I think that there are women out there who challenge that and I would like to see more of it - the writer and activist LaSara Firefox is someone who comes to mind as someone who is a mother and has a body that is fully post-children and absolutely sexy *because* of it. When I think of what you say and when I think of her image it comes to mind that *shame* is awfully unsexy. There are a lot of mamas out there who are gorgeous in their unconventional beauty when it isn't covered up by the contagious shame spread through mass media "MILF" expectations. 

 

Does anyone have any rituals or practices or special things they have done for themselves and/or continue to do that help you feel self-possessed and sexy as mom?

post #10 of 11

Understanding your relationship with your child's father helps me understand why you feel the way you do. It totally makes sense to me. I think that if you are back in a relationship (as opposed to still being in the relationship) your own expectations on your sex drive and body image are different. Especially if there is turmoil and issues that you are trying to work out. I think the rules and guidelines are more complicated in your situation...

post #11 of 11
Quote:

Does anyone have any rituals or practices or special things they have done for themselves and/or continue to do that help you feel self-possessed and sexy as mom?

 

One mom I know gets all dressed up in goth gear and takes awesome sexy photos. Fake contact lenses, fake hair, f*ck me shoes, the whole thing. LOL It's wild! She is definitely not a porn hardbody (apple body shape, plus size) but she looks AMAZING.

 

I on the other hand am a more low maintenance kind of gal. To be really personal here, I had to come to see myself AS I AM as a sexual person... which for me meant actually SEEING myself while being intimate (either alone or with a partner). Mirrors. Get a good look at yourself enjoying sex and see how hot you are.

 

I agree with what you say about shame not being sexy. That is a really good point.

 

I think there are small rituals you can do like focus on small things that you can do everyday, like making sure you drink lots of water (that's a good way to take care of yourself). For me that includes making sure I put on eyeliner everyday so when I look in the mirror I look pretty to me.

 

I really think we have to take the leap here, be brave, and learn to accept that our bodies are simply going to be different post-baby. Scary but also kind of liberating!

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