When Skinny Mom asked 15 mothers to spend a day at Skinny Mom headquarters for the "I Am" campaign swimwear photoshoot, most of the women came in with mixed emotions. Knowing that Skinny Mom reaches over five million viewers a month, naturally the moms were nervous to be showing off their bodies for the world to see.
"What made me agree to get in a swimsuit in front of the camera? Temporary lapse of insanity, I think," joked mother of two, Eileen.
And although the women arrived with butterflies in their stomachs, they became comfortable with one another in front of the camera once it was clear that everyone was in the same boat. As uneasy as some of the women felt modeling their swimwear for both tangible and virtual audiences, it was clear that there was a driving force behind their presence. The goal of Skinny Mom's "I Am" campaign was to inspire women to celebrate who they are as individuals, no matter their body type, and each and every mom who decided to spend her Friday modeling a Bare Necessities suit had a personal reason to be there. For some, it was to show other moms that they don't have to be a size four to be beautiful, like so much of the media dictates. For others, it was to set an example for their children to embrace their bodies and be confident in who they are.
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Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult for anyone, but stepping out in front of a camera and in a bathing suit takes a special courage — especially after having kids.
"Nobody talks to you about the postpartum [stage], which is kind of like a weird puberty," said Amanda S., mother of three. "Because if you're breastfeeding, your boobs are different and your belly has been stretched out for so many months, and so that skin and those muscles aren't going to go back right away. I always felt really beautiful when I was pregnant, and I loved my body. But as soon as the baby comes out... you're tired of wearing maternity clothes, but you don't really feel that great and you're just kind of ready to be back to yourself. So realizing that it takes time is kind of difficult."
Although some moms like Amanda S. were a mere few months postpartum, for other moms it had been years since having kids — we even had a grandma in our midst! Each woman's journey to body confidence was different and they each brought unique perspectives to the table.
WOMEN AND THE MEDIA
We asked the moms to talk about how women are portrayed in the media, and everyone agreed that the media sets up unrealistic expectations for how women should look physically.
"What the media does is it sets us up to compare ourselves to these unrealistic expectations with Photoshop and everything that's out there," Skinny Mom CEO and founder Brooke Griffin said. "You see celebrity moms in their size four jeans after they just had their baby... it's a little crazy. So I hope what we are doing with this photoshoot specifically, and even what we're doing with Skinny Mom, really helps moms see that you know, it's okay to love who you are exactly the size you are."
"It's very hard for women to not look at [Photoshopping and airbrushing] and feel that they have to measure up in some way, shape or form," Beth, mother of one, said. "And I know that psychologically speaking, we all go through it; it's all in our head. We think that we need to have the perfect figure in order to get that man, or to get that job, or whatever the case may be, and we struggle with it."
>> Read more: 100 Swimsuits For Every Woman
It's no question that women are affected by the media, but moms especially are held to an even higher standard to get back to their pre-baby bodies, which isn't always easy to accomplish — or healthy, per se.
"I think it's dangerous and really unfair," Amanda S. said. "There are, you know — God love her — the Heidi Klums of the world who can have babies and six weeks later walk down the runway for Victoria's Secret and look hot as hell. And then there are the rest of us. It takes months; it takes years. Fitness isn't always something that we can get back into right way, for health reasons. It's hard to take care of babies, and [getting back in shape is] just not always top priority."
>> Read more: Self-Love Challenge
It isn't only grown women who are affected by the media, either. "I see how it's affecting my daughter," Beth said. "Now that she's able to be on social media and see these things, she's growing up in a totally different environment than when I grew up, so trying to protect her from so much of that is my number one job."
"I'm thankful, in some ways, that I have a son, so that I don't have to worry about what a little girl would think growing up in this world and what they see on TV and social media," Treenah, mom of one, said. "But at the same time, I have to instill good values in him so that he has a realistic expectation of what a woman is supposed to be, and how she is supposed to be treated, and that's a constant battle."
"I have two sons, so I kind of want them to grow up knowing what a real woman looks like," Rachel, mom of two, said. "So I'm always like, 'You know that's not really what women look like.'" Rachel pauses and points at her own body. "'This is a mommy body. This is a real body. Everybody comes in different shapes and sizes.'"
THE PERFECT MOM
Every mom who modeled in Skinny Mom's "I Am" campaign had a different story to tell when it came to her body image. One mom battled an eating disorder for 26 years. One battled cancer. Each and every mom battled with self confidence at some point in her life, whether it had to do with body image or not. Real, everyday moms are affected by pressure not only to look good physically, but to be a perfect mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, caretaker, cook, and so on.
"I don't think there is a perfect mom. I really don't," Beth said. "I think everybody is unique. We've all been given talents and strengths... I think that there is no such thing as a perfect mom, even though we all try to aspire to be that."
While some of the women believe that the perfect mom doesn't exist, others had different ideas. Amanda P., mother of one, said the perfect mom looked like her mom. Magen, mother of three, believes that the perfect mom looks like "the mom that's holding it all together." Mary, mother of three and grandmother of one, said that the perfect mom has nothing to do with appearance at all.
"The perfect mom looks happy," Mary said. "Happy and content. What that physically looks like, I think you can see it on her face, and the way she holds herself. There is no perfect mom 'look,' it's more of a feeling. And hopefully everybody can get to that feeling."
Because mothers fill so many roles to so many different people, the term "supermom" often comes to mind when describing the so-called perfect mom. Eileen summed everything up perfectly:
"If your kids are healthy, and you have a roof over your head, and you're trying hard every day, then I think that's pretty close to supermom."
>> Want to see some behind the scenes action of our "I Am" campaign photoshoot? Click here!
Like what you see? We partnered up with Bare Necessities for the "I AM" campaign who provided all of the gorgeous suits for our fabulous models. Bare Necessities prides itself in the finest designer intimate apparel for women of all shapes and sizes so check them out today.