I do not know why children are drawn to following their mother into the bathroom, but it seems that every mom I know has a hard time showering or using the bathroom without children hanging from her legs. One day as I was rushing to put on make-up before work, my son came in and asked what I was doing. His question made me realize how odd my everyday practice of applying mascara was from the perspective of a 4-year-old. In my haste, I brushed past his question with a quick, “because that’s what mommy’s do,” only to have him rebound with the favorite word of preschoolers: “why?” I put down the mascara brush and looked at him, seeing in his eyes how confused he was about my beauty ritual and I paused before responding.
I have thought for a while about how important it will be in raising children to create a positive body image in them by not disparaging my own appearance. As a child who is told they have their dad’s eyes or mother’s hands, or even more emphatically that they look just like a particular parent, hearing a parent speak critically of their appearance sends the wrong message to the child about his/her own. I imagined that this would become more salient during adolescence, but my preschooler’s curiosity made me recognize that the lessons we learn about beauty start from the beginning.
So in the moment, I chose to talk about my make-up routine as one step in the process of getting ready, similar to brushing my teeth or putting on my shoes. I refrained from using descriptions that reference beauty or self-improvement, although most of the language I have for cosmetics falls in these categories. As my children continue to grow in their awareness of my beauty rituals and the industry surrounding them, I will continue to seek better answers to their questions that will hopefully allow them to develop security and love for their own natural bodies.
If you have any resources on this topic, please share in the comments!