As long-time readers can attest, I was a late bloomer. Bullies who teased me for being different, my extremely awkward teen years, and a mixture of social ineptitude and general naïveté — combined with a first boyfriend who would tell me things like, “You’d be hot if you lost some weight” — led to my having very, very low self-esteem up to my early twenties.
Then came the summer of 2001. I had just broken free of the aforementioned relationship. I joined a gym and toned up. I was finally able to develop my own sense of style and began to favor form-fitting clothes in lieu of the baggy oversized t-shirts which had hidden my figure for the first two decades of my life.
There was a moment that summer, as I looked at my reflection in the mirror, that I finally admitted to myself, “Hey, I’m not so horrible-looking.”
I can still vividly recall the very first time a guy hit on me at a bar. I had earlier noticed the handsome stranger who sat at the table next to mine, and I couldn’t believe my luck when he sauntered over and offered to buy me a drink.
He had chosen me — over all the beautiful, skinny, scantily-clad girls in the room!
I soon partnered with my best friend, who had also recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, and began to visit the bars and clubs in NYC Koreatown — where we knew we would not be carded, as we were still just shy of legal drinking age — more frequently.
Sometimes we would hit the bars 3, 4 times a week. And did I mention that my friend is a gorgeous babe who used to model? (Another reason for my low self-esteem: I have very attractive girlfriends.) I can’t remember a single time we went out — just us two — when we didn’t get approached by guys.
Soon, we grew cocky and even started going out without cash, confident that we’d find guys who would buy our drinks for us. (And we always did.)
New York Asians may remember a Korean club called MK. I’ve been to that place WAY too many times.
I would say that this was the period in my life when I felt the sexiest. I know that feeling sexy shouldn’t depend on attention from the opposite sex, but for me — a quiet, nerdy girl who had just gotten out of her shell — it did.
Fast-forward to now. It has been 11 years since that summer, and about a decade since I felt that level of arrogance in myself. I have gotten married and have two kids. In the rare instances that I am able to go out, sans children, I look at girls in their early twenties and roll my eyes at their behavior…only to realize that I once acted the same way.
It’s funny, because soon after my friend — yes, the same one as above! — and I settled down and got married, we had a conversation about these foolish years and wondered if we would still be able to pull off our old stunts. And while we agreed that we were pretty alluring back then, we also spoke of a different type of sexiness: the kind that comes from within.
We were both nowhere as energetic or peppy as we were in our early twenties. And while we weren’t out of shape, our age had definitely caught up to us as fat deposits became harder to lose and our curves had become softer, rounder, and less firm.
But, at this point in our late twenties, we had never been more confident in our bodies.
Perhaps it was because we were both recently married and no longer longed for advances from strange men? Perhaps it was the confidence that one finds in their thirties (or late twenties, in our case)? Or could it be that we were finally comfortable in our own skins?
I wish I still felt the same way.
Because these days, I don’t feel confident or sexy at all.
These days, I feel as attractive as I look in this awesome photo of me.
Yes, I am back to my pre-baby weight. Yes, people often tell me that I look young for my age. And yes, my husband regularly tells me that I’m sexy and desirable.
But in my case, pregnancy and child-rearing really did a number on my self-esteem. Throughout both pregnancies and the infant months, I felt as if my body was not my own; it was as if housing my spirit and soul became a secondary function to growing and nurturing babies.
And my post-baby body? It’s true when they say that even if you lose all the baby weight, your body will just never be the same. My hips have widened by an inch. My breasts aren’t exactly sagging, but they are definitely less firm than they were before having kids. And while my waist is back to its pre-baby size, I unfortunately seem to have fallen victim to the notorious “fallopian flab” that continues to reside in your lower abdomen no matter what diets or exercises you do.
Most days, I feel like I should just cut my hair short and get a perm, surrendering to my inevitable transformation into an ajumma.
But deep down inside, I want to be a MILF.
The original MILF that started it all (image source)
I want to feel confident in my skin again. I want to know that I am desirable.
At the same time, I feel guilty for feeling this way. Should married mothers of two young children long to feel sexy?
I know what you must be thinking: of course mothers can feel sexy! Female empowerment! There are plenty of MILFs around this day and age, and there is nothing wrong with being one!
Yet I still have trouble embracing both roles of a mother and a sexual creature, housed in the same body.
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t come from my religious beliefs — after all, the Bible commands wives and husbands to have lots of sex and even devotes many poems and songs to sexual pleasure.
Is it because I have yet to fully accept my current body, almost a year after two back-to-back pregnancies? Do I need more time to feel comfortable in this new “skin?”
Maybe the problem stems from my traditional Asian background?
Whatever the reason, I know that I must stop; nobody likes a self-pitying, insecure girl.
And that the first step must begin within myself.
Oh man, do I hear you on this one! It doesn’t help that I’m older and ill, and see nothing but sagging-and-societally-invisible old-lady years stretching before me. I also think something in many women’s psyches changes along with the physical changes of motherhood. The first time a young guy flirted with me after the baby, I swear my immediate instinct was to drop, cover myself, and yell “I’m a mother!” Thank heavens I didn’t actually do it! But what I was going through on a day to day basis as the mother of an infant just didn’t fit in any way with my concept of flirting harmlessly with 20somethings in felafel shops. I haven’t felt like a “yummie mummy” or any of that for a very long time.
All a long way of saying I’ve decided to get behind this author’s plan: http://mommyish.com/stuff/eff-the-milf-im-bringing-frumpy-back-642/
Still pregnant and already feel a bit like this! My husband and I were talking about this the other day and I admitted that since we got the positive test, I haven’t really felt like my happy, attractive sexual self. When you spend a lot of your time throwing up or breaking out or feeling tired because you are toting around a small bouncy human inside you, it is hard to put effort towards your appearance because you feel like your primary concern is the safety and development of your child. Not only that, but my confidence has probably also been reduced since, outside of work, I have no attention span for reading or writing or doing many of the things that brought me pleasure before the pregnancy and many of my thoughts are reduced to task-based memorandums. “Must eat – baby needs food”. “Must sleep – baby needs rest”.
Anyway, over the conversation, I told him that once the baby is born and things had settled for a bit, I really valued the idea of our spending grown-up time together and planning outings that required a sexy appearance boost and engaged my mind again, especially since I will be on maternity for a year and our little bean will be my primary company. The outings don’t need to be big expensive things (popping out for a nice dinner every couple of months, going to see a play or hit a museum etc.) but for my own sanity and happiness, I would like to at least experience part of who I was before this little person changed my life and body for me. Fingers crossed we can do it!
As for your case, I realize that it is easier for me to say as an outsider, but don’t be so hard on yourself! A friend of mine who has three kids told me when I got pregnant that being pregnant and birthing a child took about as much energy as it does to climb Mount Everest and look at you! You had TWO KIDS in like 13 months which is like climbing Mount Everest TWICE in A LITTLE MORE THAN A YEAR. No wonder you are mentally and physically exhausted! You are a beautiful woman and you are working hard at kicking ass and taking names for yourself and your family which is pretty damn impressive. Try not to sell yourself short and realize that you have many things to feel confident and sexy about. XOXO.
Thank you for writing this! I feel largely the same way, except for one major difference: I was never hot & hit on in my early twenties. I don’t know what it was, whether it was the clothes I wore or the way I carried myself (or the fact that my husband and I started dating seriously when I was 18 and I was reaaally sheltered before that), but I don’t think I have EVER been hit on by a stranger. Ever. That has always been a sore point for me, and now two kids and a spare tire later, I feel even worse. When I did get below my pre-baby weight between my kids, I actually developed the absolute worst case of acne I ever had (I think I was hormonally unbalanced due to lack of body fat) and so even when I was skinny and running I felt like wearing a bag over my head. Typing this all out now, I think I need to go back and read your post about 5 more times till I start to feel better again, but you really really hit the nail on the head for me… this especially: “it was as if housing my spirit and soul became a secondary function to growing and nurturing babies.” Thank you!
i was just thinking about feeling sexy this morning, actually. My daughter is two months old, and while my husband is wonderful at making me feel loved, and while I was lucky to lose the baby weight quickly, I do not feel sexy at all. I think to feel sexy, I would need to feel like I own my body, and right now I feel like she owns it 90% of the time and my husband gets the other 10%, and there’s nothing left for me to feel confident about! Even clothes shopping or putting on outfits – it gets tiring and frustrating having to make sure I can nurse or pump in anything I wear. I want to wear what I want, darn it!
Thank yo so much for your honest posts – its TOUGH. I found myself nodding my head in agreement a lot. Being a mom and sexy at the same time is such a tough balance.
Yes, yes, I love your posts- maybe because you write about motherhood with such frankness and truth and I hear a chorus of people saying yes, I feel this way too?! I had two kids very close together, but I’m in my late thirties and it’s been a struggle to feel like 1) a woman 2) a human. The only thing that has worked for me so far is this, after three years and a long slide, I put the kids in two mornings a week preschool and I use that time for myself. I exercise, I hike, I do yoga, I get a pedicure, I volunteer, I do a little freelance work, I do things that are about me, to re-inspire myself, to give me back my sense of self/purpose outside of being a mother- and that makes me feel sexy again. I also do a once a week evening out- with friends or my husband. I really think that a little time away from my kids makes me a better mother (I’m more patient, I actually get to miss them, etc.) and makes me feel whole again.
Great post! Actually… I have to admit that this is one reason why I feel like I don’t want to be a mom quite yet. In the back of my head, I’m like “ugh I’m going to lose that ‘sexy’ factor!” I am probably offending ALL the moms out there, but for some reason the moment a woman becomes a MOM… well she’s a MOM, ya know? Yes, Victoria Beckham and Gwen Stefani can still rock it out, but for the most part we normal people probably will never go back to normal. (Kudos to you though!) The only moms I know have bounced back amazingly and look way better than I do! But it’s not just about looks, it’s the idea/concept of being a mom. It is of course all about each individual and how they think of themselves, but I feel like I will feel like a sloppy mess and that wearing a little black dress would be the last thing on my mind. It’s hard to love your sexuality your whole life and then realize that it may not be the same anymore. But I guess… that’s life! The stars on TV are barely pushing 20 and there are new wrinkles to be found everyday, so…..
I think I need to concentrate on what is truly important in life. I really do think family is the most important role/thing in life so being a mother is such a blessing and the most precious gift on earth. It’s just… in the back of my head. =) Need to work on that!!
interesting post! thanks for sharing! one of my fav sections of the “bringing up bebe” book is the part where they talk about sexy french moms. in france, there is no expectation that a woman will lose her sexiness after giving birth. it’s unheard of! when they put their babies down at 7 or so, it’s time for romance! they put on their stockings and high heels, put on some red lipstick, and sit on the patio drinking wine with their hubbies. there is no concept of “date nights” in france because every night is date night! of course, i’m sure the book is hyperbolizing, but i love this idea. although i like laying around in sweats and watching netflix with my hubby more than drinking wine in high heels.