how I want my daughter to look

I was so sure I was having a boy. I’d even given my baby a boy name, and I talked to my belly and told him he was a great son. A strong, noble, excellent son. People said, “A mother knows…” and nodded along with me.

Not this mother. Apparently, this mother doesn’t know shit.

“Can you tell if he’s a boy or a girl?” I asked the sonographer at the 20 week ultrasound, just to be sure.

She bit her lip and tried not to smile. “Oh yes. I can tell.”

(source)

He was a girl. She had always been a girl. I burst into overwhelmed tears. And then something shameful happened. Instead of being fully happy, the way every new mother is supposed to, I was worried. I was worried that she would look like me.

 

What an embarrassing reaction. I tried to pretend I hadn’t had it. But the thing is, being a girl was not always easy for me. And the not-easiness tended to cluster around my feelings about my appearance. The not-easiness grew and grew until I got plastic surgery at the end of college. By then, I often caught myself feeling downright ugly, and believing that my ugliness was the most critical thing about me. I wasn’t stupid—I tried to shake it, I tried to be reasonable—but my sense of my own failure as a person due to the way I looked felt like a cancer that just kept creeping back. I wanted to cut it out of me, so I signed up for a surgery that would do just that—cut off the bad parts.

I don’t need to get into the whole thing again. The point is, I struggled with the way I looked. And I really, really don’t want my daughter to feel the way I felt. I don’t want her to look at her own body and see only a compilation of unfortunate parts, like scrap metal, pieced together. I don’t want her to look in the mirror and see everything that is missing and failing instead of everything that is present and good and working just fine. And sometimes, so many times, too very many times, girls learn to see the flaws and the lack and the tiny “problems” first and always.

(“if only those damn sheep weren’t there, the mountains would be perfect. I should get them removed…” source)

I was scared when I found out that my baby was a girl. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to protect her from that. And from so many other things, of course. But definitely from that.

It’s been months since I found out that I will have a daughter, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot, of course, as she kicks and prods me, and as I get bigger and bigger and begin to gently pee myself at random moments.

I’ve had some time to wrestle with my fear. There have been a lot of things I’ve needed to let go of, to prepare for her arrival, for her reality. I have been forced to confront some unresolved issues, my own hang-ups, and the things that upset me most about the world. And after a lot of thought, and a lot of writing in my journal, and a lot of eating cookies in the middle of the night just because “the baby wants a cookie,” I think I’ve finally figured out exactly what I want my daughter to look like. Because looks matter. That’s the truth. And because they don’t have to matter as much as they did for me. That’s also the truth.

So this is what I’ve come up with. This is what I hope my daughter looks like:

I hope that she will look comfortable in her body

I hope that she will look happy

I hope that she will look like she can be bold when she wants to

I hope that she will look like she’s wearing clothes that she likes to wear

I hope that she will look like she’s taken the time to get to know herself

I hope that she will look like she laughs whenever she thinks something is funny

I hope that she will look like she has a pretty good idea where she’s going

I hope that she will look like she can forgive herself

I hope that she will look like she has plenty of fun

I hope that she will look like she isn’t afraid

I hope that she will look exactly like herself

(source)

And secretly, under everything, I have come to realize that I actually hope a tiny bit that she looks like me. Despite all of the issues I’ve had over the years with my appearance. Despite the complicated, meandering path to self-acceptance I’ve walked (occasionally barefoot, in the rain, up a giant hill—because I’m friggin’ intrepid). I remember being a little girl and looking in the mirror and loving my own face. I remember thinking that I was beautiful just for existing. And I know, deep down, under the nervousness I have about my daughter, that she will be beautiful just for existing.

And also, I know that she will not be me, even though she is inside my body right now. She will be this complete other person. But maybe, just maybe, she will rock these genes I’ve given her. Maybe she will take them farther than I ever could. Maybe she won’t give a shit. Maybe she will be ferocious. Selfishly, I want that for my features. I want that for my future. I want that for my daughter.

(beautiful just for existing…source)

This appeared originally on my Mirror Mirror column

For some reason, I just wanted to include a bunch of photos of New Zealand with this post, because I sometimes google “beautiful new zealand” and just stare at the results and feel soothed. So I did that, instead of trying to find pictures that fit better. Maybe it’s OK– maybe this somehow works. Maybe not, and hey, you got to look at some mountains! :p

*  *  *

I’m dying of curiosity: (if you have one) how does your daughter look? Do you see yourself in her? Do YOU look like your mother?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look from the back

 

69 Comments »

Kate on June 7th 2013 in beauty, body, motherhood, pregnancy

69 Responses to “how I want my daughter to look”

  1. Molly responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 9:01 am #

    My daughter looks like me. And like my husband. And like my little sister. And like my husband’s older sister. And like my mom (a lot). It’s incredible how a slight variation in her expression can make her look just like any one of us.

    But mostly, she looks like my mom, who, when she was younger, could have passed for an Audrey Hepburn double in both face and figure. I look more like my dad than my mom, with blunter features and a sturdy, rather than willowy, body. It seems likely that my daughter will be really, really beautiful when she’s older, and I have mixed feelings about that. As a kid, I was bullied a bit for *not* being beautiful, and I never want her to go through that – but neither do I want her to be the girl who’s shunning another girl because her looks/clothes/whatever aren’t up to par. I’m afraid that people will comment so often on her beauty that she, as my mother did until she got a lot older, will find her own self-worth wrapped up entirely in her looks. These comments have already begun, actually, and though I find myself saying, “Oh, thank you,” whenever anyone tells me how lovely my little girl is, I find myself wanting to say, “She’s also really funny. And sweet! And sometimes exasperatingly stubborn. She works really hard to master new skills. She’s very smart.” But I don’t, because, you know, I’d get weird looks.

    But I can’t actually want her to look any different than she does, no matter how it may or may not affect her. Because she looks like me, and her dad, and our sisters and mostly my mom, and because her smile would be different and her funny shovel-like feet would be different and she wouldn’t have that crease above her knees that she inherited from my side of the family.

  2. Ms George responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 9:03 am #

    I don’t have a daughter yet, but I feel like she’s out there (odd seeng as I’m an atheist!) I can already see what she looks like. Is that weird?! Love this post.

  3. Mandy responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I don’t have any children, but as I get older, I see my mother’s features on my face in the mirror.
    At first, I wasn’t especially happy about it, mostly, I think, because I wanted to look like me, not her. And, because I don’t remember her ever being happy with the way she looked.
    But the older I get, the more I own the features I share with my mother. And, the more I feel as if, in some way, I’m a happy sort of “do-over” because most of the time, I DO like the way I look.

  4. Mindy responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 9:45 am #

    My daughter is beautiful. She looked more like my husband when she was little, but I see more and more of me in her as she grows. Sometimes when I see her in a photo I catch my breath, because for a second, I thought it was me. Yet, she looks very different from me, too… she’s very much her own self now at 17. Beautiful. Inside and out. Your daughter will be the same. :)

  5. Hellena-Beatrice responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I look a bit like my mother, but much more like my grandmother (my mother’s mum) – same curly black hair, same eyes, very similar face. My body is nobody’s copy – it seems to be just mine:)
    My beloved one has a grown up daughter and she is has more of his body structure and blondish hair, but her face is all her mother’s.

    My two sisters (not from my birth mother, but from the third marriage of my artistic father) are very different. I am the eldest. The middle one was a copy of me until 4-5 years old. The youngest was a dark blonde beauty not ressembling anyone in the family:)) Now when they are 20 and 18, the blondy ressembles much more of me and the middle one – of their mother. Genes are a strange bunch of poker players and you never know:)

  6. Kari responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I found myself startled at the fact that I was choking up at your list of how you want your daughter to look. I don’t have kids, and I’ve never had a particularly horrible self-image, so I don’t know why this particular post hit me so hard. I think I was just struck – isn’t that what we all want for ourselves? And isn’t that really, when it comes down to it, basically a list of what we envy in others? And wouldn’t it be great if everyone’s mom (or dad) had that same list of things that they wanted for their kids?

    Not my most earth-shattering comment ever, but I mostly just wanted to say that this struck a chord with me. I think you’re right to admit and then confront these fears. I’m scared of having a girl, too – I’ve never felt like I’m particularly “good” at being a girl – but I think you’re ready. For what it’s worth. And hopefully I will be if or when the time comes, too.

  7. Kate responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Thank you, Kari!

  8. deedee responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Hi…I can’t believe she will be here soon. I have a thought…when you wrote about this before I had responded to you that I think that both genders struggle with appearance. I never saw a response from you so I want to (gently) address this again. Until and unless you grow to realize that this is a universal battle fought by both boys and girls, you will subtly pass along to your daughter the concept that this is only a female thing. Once you accept that all humans (regardless of genitalia) have insecurities about their body I think you will be free from what holds you hostage. Your notion that it is a “girl thing” only fuels the fire that you so desperately try to put out.

  9. Kate responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:45 am #

    @deedee
    Yes, it is a universal battle. Yes, everyone has insecurities. By writing about girls, I don’t think I am suggesting that these issues don’t exist for boys. Often, I’m writing about myself, because that’s the only perspective I can have with any real authenticity.

    I’ve written about boys/men and body image, too, I’m not sure if you saw. But unfortunately, the world does care more about the way girls look than the way boys look. And there are appearance/body image issues that affect girls and women disproportionately. I don’t think that’s me, failing to accept the truth, I think that’s just reality. It’s a history of quiet and overt sexism, it’s maybe biological, it’s a lot of things. But what it’s NOT is the same for boys and girls.

    And honestly, your language sounds a little condescending here (maybe totally unintentional- sorry if that’s the case)! I don’t feel desperate, I feel like it’s important to have these conversations.

  10. Kim responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 10:53 am #

    My daughter (and my son too) also look like a combination of both me and my husband. My daughter has my face shape and my nose, but she has her father’s eyes and coloring. My son looks more like me, but certain expressions on his face make him look exactly like his dad.

    I didn’t think I looked like either of my parents until I was in my late 20s, and then I realized I looked like my mom (and I was mildly horrified, not because my mom is unattractive, but because I am fiercely independent and wanted to only look like ME). And it wasn’t until my dad passed away last year that I finally saw that I look a bit like him too. Something about the shape of my jaw and my mouth is definitely my dad. And I found it incredibly comforting, like he was always with me. So now I am proud to see both my parents looking through me when I look at myself.

  11. deedee responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:15 am #

    “And honestly, your language sounds a little condescending here (maybe totally unintentional- sorry if that’s the case)! I don’t feel desperate, I feel like it’s important to have these conversations.”

    That is why I stated, “gently.”

    Having raised two boys into adulthood I have had the chance to be around my fair share of boys. From that experience I have learned to see their struggles, and they are just as hard as the female gender. Not only do they have the basic physical appearance issues, they have the added struggle of masculinity and all that it is expected of them. There are MANY images that a young boy feels he has to live up to (in the media) that will never be obtainable for the masses. You feel that there is more pressure on the girls, but I think if you really spend some time looking at it from a male perspective you will see what I am referring to. I’m writing about this because it really was liberating for me to look at the issue as a whole (human), not just from within (female).

  12. Kate responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:21 am #

    @deedee

    LOL! If only words always worked that way. Then we could always “gently” tell people exactly why we think they’re lame!

    I hear you– and I have two brothers. Which is obviously not the same, but I’ve certainly seen boys grow up. It’s just not what I’m talking about here. I do think it’s really important to remember that body image isn’t exclusively the realm of girls and women. And I like that you’re looking at things from as broad a perspective as possible! And I think I said everything I wanted to say in response in my last comment, so I’ll just leave it at that :-) Thanks for your thoughts

  13. onebreath responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:22 am #

    “Because looks matter. That’s the truth. And because they don’t have to matter as much as they did for me. That’s also the truth.” – Words like this are why I love your writing – raw and true.

    Another blogger (Hope the Happy Hugger) recently wrote about watching her young daughter dance around in princess dress and looking and feeling like she could take on the world… I love that image and I remember that feeling too – it really didn’t matter what the clothing/item was, when I decided it made me special, I put it on and I *was* special. I’m not a mom, but I feel like, sometimes, we can choose a talisman that can return that special feeling by reminding us that we are special rather than by any transformation.

    It’s still early where I am though, so I’m not sure anything above makes sense :)

  14. deedee responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:26 am #

    @deedee

    LOL! If only words always worked that way. Then we could always “gently” tell people exactly why we think they’re lame!

    I never wanted to imply “lame.” I am old enough to be your mother and that was my tone… in a motherly way, asking you to consider something. :o )

  15. Kate responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:28 am #

    @deedee
    Got it :-) No hard feelings at all!

  16. Erika responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Your list made me tear up too. Can you imagine a girl/woman like that? She would be the most beautiful person on earth!

    I have two girls (and also wanted boys because I thought it was hard to be a girl). Both looked a lot like me when they were babies. As they grew older, they now look like me in different ways. One has my lips, one has my hands and feet. My older daughter has red, straight hair, a surprise to my husband and me, who both have brown. My younger daughter has curly brown hair, curlier than mine ever was.

    I try though, not to ever verbally compare our bodies, just because I am still hyper-aware of mine and trying to get over it. My mom had a terrible body image, and would sometimes say, “you have my figure.” I grew up thinking that body was something you had to fight and was always judging and comparing. I don’t want to pass any of that on, which IS WHY YOUR LIST IS SO LOVELY. I’m keeping it for reference. It gives me a “do” list instead of a “don’t” list.

  17. Amy responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    My mom and I just talked about this, sort of, the other day. She worked very hard at not passing her negative body image issues on to me. She was very successful. I’ve never had issues with food or my weight. Sometimes I don’t like my teeth but whatever. Evidently she accomplished this by lying her butt off. haha. She told me that what was important is being healthy and that she saw herself as a beautiful and powerful woman even thought she felt ugly and weak. Looking back, since she pointed it out, I can kind of see she thought more about food than maybe what is “normal” but I did not see or feel any kind of real dysfunction whatsoever. I did not know she was attending meetings 3 times a week for years and that most of her friends were ladies she had met at these meetings. Had not a clue really until she told me the other day during this conversation.
    My mom is so awesome I can’t even tell you. You will be awesome too. You are not doomed to pass on anything that you don’t want to.

  18. Raia responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Kate, your list of what you want for your daughter is beautiful, it struck a nerve in me too :) .

    To answer your questions, I look a lot like my own mother and people tell me my daughter looks like me. To be honest, while I see the resemblance, the similarity between my mother and me is more obvious than between me and my daughter (she’s 2.5 years old). We have the same blue eyes and similar hair color, but her skin is darker, like my husband’s. She looks like herself more than anything.

    I suppose it is biological or something, but I remember just after she was born thinking my daughter was the most beautiful, perfect baby I had ever seen. And at each month as she grew I thought the same. Now, when I look back at photos of her as a newborn, she’s not quite as adorable as I remember – she looks a little more old-man-ish in the photos than I remember. Maybe this is just the limitations of a camera’s ability to capture her perfectness, or a mother’s love. She is beautiful in every possible way to me.

  19. Melanie responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I do not look like my mother. I am 5 inches taller and have much stronger features. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of my birth father a few years back that I went, “Oh, that’s me!” and heard stories of his ridiculous sense of humor, that I finally knew where I came from. I grew up in a household where I couldn’t really relate to my siblings and parents. As I’ve grown I now know that they aren’t as foreign as I used to imagine they were, but there is still that part of me that wished I could’ve met my father before he passed, because I’m pretty sure the bulk of my personality comes from him.

    I love the wishes for how your daughter looks. Very nice.

  20. kelly responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    People say my daughters look like me, but I don’t often see it, especially since they like so much like my husband as babies. I have dark hair and eyes, while they are both blonde-haired, blue-eyed angels. My older one is thin (which i have never been) and fairly graceful, though, like me, she seems very uncoordinated at times. She also has my intense, introverted, sensitive personality. It is that that I worry about the most for her. The world is a cruel place and she wears her heart on her sleeve. My younger one is only 4, but she is tiny and impish and, like my husband, loves to play jokes and make people laugh.

    What’s really strange to me is that my son is a carbon-copy of me as a toddler. I see so much of my brother in him, which I love. He has my husband’s charming personality and stubbornness, but he sure loves to snuggle with his momma. He isn’t quite 2 yet, so I can’t wait to see him grow up.

    All of your pregnancy posts have really resonated with me, being the first of my friends to get married and have kids. I really struggled with being a mom and still trying to live the life culture says we should be living at 26 or 30-partying, drinking, hooking up. But, I did what works for me, and I am happier and more at peace than I have ever been. I pray you will experience the same.

  21. kelly responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    And ditto what Raia said about looking at pictures and thinking they just don’t portray how perfect your kids really were!

  22. Katrina responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    I have three sons and a daughter, and my daughter scared me the most — probably because I was so uncomfortable in my own freckled skin as a child. My mom was a model — head-turningly gorgeous, and my sister looks just like her. I look like my dad, and my daughter looks a great deal like me. But ultimately, my girl looks like herself — a lovely combination of all those who preceded her. Sometimes I look at her and am amazed at the way genetics works. Same for my boys.

    Perhaps you’ll see yourself differently through your baby girl. And maybe you’ll be so overwhelmed by how perfect she is that she’ll ultimately see herself through the mirror of adoration you hold up for her. I don’t know what you look like physically, but I think you have a beautiful soul.

  23. San D responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    “Looks” can be elusive. Do I “look” like my mother? Depends on the time of day and mood she was in and then extrapolated, into the time and day I am in. I am definitely my “mother’s daughter”, although she tried to claim my sister as her’s exclusively. I do “look” physically look like my father’s side of the family, but have my mother’s “nose”. That said, I can shoot the same daggers from my father’s side of the family eyes to anyone who deserves them, or I can flash my mother’s generous smile to anyone who needs it. I can out-manipulate anyone in any game of social/political/economic origin, and when I taught I used to say I used my mother’s gifts for good instead of evil. I am definitely my mother’s daughter.

  24. Johanna responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    As the mother of a boy and three girls, I agree with you that looks are much more intrinsic to girls’ sense of “self” than they are to boys. Even those women who grew up without any major body issues seem, at *some* point in their lives, to have obsessed about a particular feature or connected at least part of their worth to their looks — it may not be entirely universal for women to think “am I beautiful enough for someone to love me?”, but it sure is common.

    I imagine some men do that as well, maybe especially if they have some feature that is considered especially “unmanly”, e.g., short or skinny or sunken-chested, or whatever, but men’s issues have usually seemed to me to be based on what they *are*, not how they *look*.

    I worry about what the world will do to my daughters. I remember my own adolescence, and how tormented I felt about not being pretty “enough”. Fortunately, by the time I had children I felt comfortable with my looks — I actually think I’m quite pretty, more now than when I was in my twenties. I hope it will help that I’m not modeling self-deprecating behavior. I hope it will help that I discuss with them the images of girls and women they see on t.v., and how realistic they think those images are.

    I don’t know whether that will shield them, though. I dread the day one of my children will come home and say “I wish I were more {fill in the blank}”. I hope they will retain the confidence they have today. Because right now, they *are* beautiful and they know it.

  25. Jennn responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    I see myself in her, but I also see my grandmother and my sisters. She sometimes will have a brief expression that feels so strongly familiar to me, and I realize I’m recognizing my little sisters in her when we were all growing up together. I see flashes of my husband in my son, and it’s sometimes shocking to see a grown man reflected in a sometimes very serious toddler.

  26. Sarah responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I felt the same way you did growing up. My mom said I was beautiful, I never believed it; not for one minute. My nose was too prominent, my skin too white, a love/hate relationship with my freckles (that has made me a hypochondriac later in life–is that one getting bigger, has it changed, ahhhhhhhhhhh), I was too skinny, not skinny enough, the list goes on. I felt much the same as you when I saw my daughter for the first time. There is such pressure with being a girl that boys just. don’t. have. There is a fear that any rational mom will have.

    My daughter is not me. She doesn’t look anything like me, very much daddy’s little girl, but I also see my mother in her, who died LONG before she was born. She is beautiful. I think she knows it. I know she is more comfortable in her own skin than I ever was at that age. I am much more comfortable with my looks now, in my 40s, than I was in my teens and 20s, and work hard to model that for her.

    We talk about beauty, and what society thinks is pretty, and how that compares to real people. I think it helps that she goes to a very diverse school, over 40 different home countries for our kids from all around the world. Many come to school in hijabs, and other traditional clothes, being new to this country. Reality to her is different clothes, skin tones, hair textures, not the teen model expectation I had in the 80s.

    Somewhat related, I asked her one day, did she think anyone in her school was ugly (don’t ask me why, it’s just something that popped into my head one day). The person she named, after surprise at the question and a lot of thought and saying she really coudn’t think of anyone, was a girl that most would find very pretty, but who is mean, and is always trying to work girls against each other. I found that very interesting. We are just starting the middle school years, and would count this as a victory if, when she enters high school, she is still judging people by their heart and not their looks.

  27. Veronica responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I’m childless. But in retrospect, looking at my own self-image growing up, I hated when people told me I looked like my mother who is beautiful and was stunning as a young woman (I’m not claiming to be beautiful and stunning). I didn’t want to look like her because of our strained relationship and I didn’t respect her at the time. As I’ve gotten older and the relationship has healed, I do respect her. A lot. I am proud to have similar features as her and to have that connectedness to my mother. Your daughter will love looking like you because of who you are not because of the length of your lashes. Great post, Kate. *cheese alert* You are a beautiful voice for all women.

  28. San D responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    As an aside: My sister’s young grandchild is always approached by strangers and told he is beautiful, and even given something by them, i.e. a balloon, a ball, etc. At 3 he looked up at my sister and innocently asked “what do ugly kids get”?

  29. Brittany responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I wonder if seeing and believing your daughter to be beautiful will make you feel beautiful yourself, if she looks like you.

    Just a small thought among all these other thoughts.

  30. Corina responded on 07 Jun 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    My youngest daughter looks just like me. I have never thought I was beautiful, but I think she is beautiful. It’s like the best of my features, mixed just a little with her fathers, created something awesome. She is the me that I always thought I should look like. Looking at her has allowed me to (sometimes) see myself as beautiful.

    And…she hates it when people say she looks like me. I am trying to not be too insulted.

  31. Meg responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 12:55 am #

    I am an unfortunate combination of my two very attractive parents, such that I am quite the opposite. It sounds unlikely, but really is possible in my case. I have my father’s narrow, cutting French eyes, which look stunning on his chiseled, lean face. Yet, I have my mother’s round face. Somehow, her eyes, nose, and other features complement it perfectly–she was more beautiful at 35 than I will ever be in my youth.

    If this situation can happen, so can the reverse; this gives me hope that randomly mixing characteristics with that of an unattractive mate could yield a desirable combination. I wish for this. I never could be “jealous,” as I know how much unattractiveness hurts, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Sure, beautiful people can be vain. From my perspective, however, the slightest bit of self-confidence can go a long way for a child who lacks it to begin with; it would be a risk I am willing to take. No one wants vain children, but no one wants their children to be silent because they feel they are too ugly to have their voice valued. (Something I still struggle with.)

    I want for my children to have conviction in themselves. Not for beauty. But if lack of beauty is holding them back from this conviction (as wrong and horrible as it may be), then give them some pleasing traits to smile about on their worst days.

    It is such a luxury to drop into bed at night, have your world falling apart, and think “oh well, at least I’m beautiful.”

  32. Devika responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 4:48 am #

    You are such a beautiful writer . I love how your posts are so personal , so feminine and so feminist at the same time.

    My mother is a gorgeous lady . Even now when she is almost 60 she is mistaken for a 30 something woman and is still quite literally the ‘belle of the ball.’

    I always feel really proud of the fact that she is so beautiful . I guess that is where she has been a really good mom . Even though I have been fat for a really long time (I am just 22 ) I think that it is amazing that I do not resent my mother or my elder sister for being beautiful.

    I wish you all sorts of luck with bringing up your daughter. Sometimes mothers are gorgeous and sometimes they are not and sometimes the kid is beautiful and sometimes he/she is not. I really don’t think it matters so much as long as your parents bring you up the right way and you believe that it is only one of those attributes that people possess .

    Congratulations on your baby :)

  33. tirzahrene responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Most of my favorite compliments are how I am like my mother, and I love all the ways in which I look like her. I love that I have my mom’s legs, even though aesthetically I don’t actually care for my calves’ shape. This is because my mom is a kickass woman in all the ways that matter to me, and being like her can’t possibly be a bad thing. This has the effect of making me like the skin I’m in more than I would if my mom weren’t so awesome.

  34. Michele responded on 08 Jun 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Hi Kate, From a slightly differently perspective, my mom is currently in the hospital very sick. Just yesterday a nurse commented that she could see the resemblence between us. That made me feel good. I am so scared of losing her. . . .

    I have young two sons, one looks exactly like my husband and the other looks more like me but they both look like each other, if that makes sense. I am trying so hard to teach them the a girl’s value comes from within. I think I caught them in time :)

    Your daughter will be beautiful inside and out

  35. Kay responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 1:51 am #

    What a sweet post… I don’t have kids but I do look like my mom, and more as I’ve gotten older. I like it (though I didn’t always)! We both have Italian features from her mom, my grandma–the thing I like most is that our noses are the same, it connects us. Your daughter, if she looks like you, might feel the same way one day :)

  36. Doreen responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 9:28 am #

    hi Kate. I didn’t want my daughter to look like me either but she does a little and it ‘s ok. she is adorable and sweet. I read this article today and thought you might like it. sorry i can’t figure out how to paste it as a link so you have to copy and paste it.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/paris-jackson-beauty-myth-coren?guni=Network%20front:network-front%20main-5%20most%20read:microapp%20zeitgeist:Most%20Viewed%20Section%20Front:Position2

  37. Kate responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    @Devika
    What a sweet comment! Thank you!

  38. Kate responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    @Michele
    I am thinking about your mom and you and hoping so much that she will come through whatever she’s dealing with and recover her health.

  39. Kate responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    @Doreen
    Thanks for linking to this article! I’m reading it now

  40. Lisa responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Hello Kate. When I found out I was having a girl the first thing that popped out of my mouth was ” How big is her nose ?”.
    I, too, was worried that she would look like me.
    She does. She may not be classically pretty but she’s cute as a button. Even more, at seven, she’s sweet and smart.
    Your daughter will be lovely!

  41. Patricia responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    This blog post made me think of Sarah and one of my favorite spoken word poems!!

  42. Patricia responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    haha I forgot to add the link
    http://youtu.be/0snNB1yS3IE

  43. Patricia responded on 09 Jun 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    so I fond this on TEDtalks and was so impressed
    http://youtu.be/KM4Xe6Dlp0Y

  44. Anna responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 4:04 am #

    I’m a NZer :) Glad you like our little country, and yes it is beautiful, although of course the bit that I live in looks exactly nothing like that. LOL

  45. karen responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 8:07 am #

    My two daughters came out looking like my husband. ASTOUNDINGLY so.It doesn’t make for particularly beautiful babies, but my older child at 4 is now pretty. That is something no one mentioned to me – how much children’s looks change. The eye color doesn’t stabilize for a year and once they start getting hair is changes everything! She didn’t even start growing much hair until she was two & now she has a riot of curly auburn hair.

    I also don’t think she looks much like me, but it’s hard to know. When I look at her, I see a combination of my mother & my mother-in-law. :)

    The 7 month old still looks like my husband – but I know she also will grow into her own person & I’m excited to see what she’ll look like. Maybe more like me?

  46. P Flooers responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    “I’ve Started Telling My Daughter I Am Beautiful”
    http://offbeatfamilies.com/2012/11/telling-daughters-im-beautiful

    Cheers and Love!

  47. Kate responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    @P Flooers
    Um, YES. HELL YES.

    And also, how come someone always ultimately does it just a bit better than me?? I guess it’s just something to look forward to :-)

  48. Mhlia responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    I have a 3 month old daughter and reading your posts reminds me of the worries I had while pregnant. :)

    I really dislike my chin. I’ve never done anything about it, but I have strongly considered it… when I found out I was having a girl, one of my first thoughts was “I hope she doesn’t have my chin”. And what feature was incredibly prominent the moment she was born? Yep, my chin. HER chin.

    As she grows older and her face changes from newborn to baby, I find myself really liking that she has my chin. That we share this chin. It makes me appreciate my own chin more seeing it on her. Her looks are very split (right now) between my husband and me, but her chin marks her connection to me and my mother and my grandmother. I hadn’t ever thought about that before her birth, but it has become ever more important. And that chin sure is a lot cuter than I ever gave it credit for – on her and me.

  49. Kate responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m really enjoying reading these comments, by the way. I am always interested these days in hearing people describe their children.

  50. Tessa Scarlett responded on 10 Jun 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    First of all, since I’ve never commented before, I’ll say that I love your blog and this article.
    Anyway, I’ve never had a daughter – I’m only fifteen! – but I hope to have children when I’m older and married. The thing is, though, that I struggled with anorexia for two years, and though I’ve recovered now (I don’t mean to make it sound so trivial and easy, but it’s still hard to talk about), I already fear that my daughter will struggle with the same issues. My parents raised me in the best way that they could – they never commented on my body or anyone’s, they did everything they could to show that appearance wasn’t the important thing…but it was genetics and a low self esteem when I switched schools in sixth grade that led me to starve myself nearly to death two years later. My mom’s OCD manifested in me as anorexia, and the thought of having a daughter (or a son) with the same is horrifying. So yes, despite the fact that I’m only fifteen and have never even had a boyfriend, I’ve already spent time thinking about how I will raise my daughter, if I ever have one. And this is a bit of a clue. So thank you for this. Thank you very much.

  51. P Flooers responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 7:06 am #

  52. Kate responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 10:59 am #

    @P Flooers
    Something is in the air…Thanks for sharing!

  53. Kate responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 11:00 am #

    @Tessa
    Writing you an email

  54. LG responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 11:51 am #

    We’re adopting, so I guess way beyond the “are you going to find out if it’s a boy or gir?” question. It’s going to be some bigger ones for us…gender, race, temperment…who knows what he/she will look like or be like?

    Gosh, what are we doing???? :0)

  55. Kate responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    @LG
    Good for you! And yes, that raises totally different questions. Huge, fascinating ones.

  56. Gemma NZ responded on 11 Jun 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    Woo go New Zealand!! I live here :)
    Another great post Kate

  57. shevrae responded on 13 Jun 2013 at 9:08 am #

    We were convinced we were having a boy as well and waited until baby arrived to discover, “It’s a girl!” I didn’t really have time to think about how that was different from what I had prepared myself for. As far as looks, everyone took one look at my daughter and said the same thing – she looked just like my father! He was horrified, “She’s not supposed to look like me!” My father was a handsome man, but would not have made an attractive woman. :)

    That little girl is now 11 and is quite lovely, always has been actually. She has 3 sisters and only 1 of my kids looks like me. And she is gorgeous – really – and has me completely questioning my opinion of myself as a kid/teen. Now, of course, as a homeschool Mom of 4 young kids, I have a whole new host of issues – my seemingly constant tired look, the baby weight I never bothered to lose after girl #4, etc. But I suspect that later, if my daughter is in my place, I will still see her as gorgeous.

    I seem to look at myself to quantify the flaws, and I seem to look at others to just enjoy their presence.

  58. Kate responded on 13 Jun 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    @the New Zealanders who responded to this post
    What is it like to actually live there?? I’m so automatically jealous…

  59. Jude responded on 14 Jun 2013 at 7:58 am #

    what a lovely piece this is. thankyou for sharing these thoughts.

    my partner is a redhead and both our kids are curly haired gingers. everyone, i mean everyone, comments on their hair, and everyone says they look like their dad. I find it really hard to see myself in either of their faces even though neither of them looks just like him & they clearly have elements of me… like both have my blue eyes, my son does facial expressions just like mine, & has a face shape like mine. it has surprised me how much it disappoints me when people say this, as rationally I know I don’t or shouldn’t put stock in it, but it must bother me that I grew these little people but no one ever says they look a bit like me.

    my first born boy is a bum-free hip-free string bean but my 2 yr old girl is a stocky little powerhouse of a girl. she is so proud of her body & what it does. she loves to dance. the most bittersweet heartbreaking thing to me at the moment is that she goddamn loves her little pudgy belly. we do belly button poking games, & “tummy drumming”, & she thinks its hilarious to lift up her top in response to “where’s your belly?” but I am waiting & dreading the day she learns to judge, hate, & want to reshape this perfect little body. & instead of taking delight in seeing her reflection will, without thinking, be harsh to herself.

    the respite to this is that she is the most strong willed, independent and bloody minded little toddler I have ever seen. she knows what she wants & how she wants it, loves her personal space, wants to do everything herself, & stands up for herself if anyone crosses her boundaries. most toddlers have elements of this but she is so much more assertive than her brother was that it does give me hope for what a strong & fabulous woman she’s going to be. my mum used to refer to me as “a feminist” when I was a kid and I had no idea what that even meant, but I can see why now, & I guess I hope that this inner bloody-mindedness is the strength I’m passing onto my little crazy redhead.

  60. ylva responded on 14 Jun 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    hi kate :) !

    i’ve never been here before and i wasn’t really expecting anything special while following that link from my reader, but… this made me cry. my friends used to say that they couldn’t imagine adopting a child, because they wouldn’t recognize themselves in that child, i always answered i’d much rather adopt one, beacuse i really, really didn’t want a child – any child – looking like me. i never did adopt, but i have a son and a daughter and i had the exact same fears as you do. i also wrote a very similar list. and i’m so grateful! they are both beautiful, inside and out, and they don’t look a bit like me. the only thing they inhereted from me is my pale skin. my son (the oldest) has beautiful sharp features. surprisingly feminine in some ways. he just looks like himself. i don’t know where his looks come from, i guess they’re just a spectacular mix of everything. my daughter… she looks completely different, but just as beautiful. much softer, much rounder, but really really strong at the same time. she’s very girly and very boyish at the same time in a very wonderful way. i can see her father and my maternal grandmother in her.

    your daughter will be beautiful and wonderful!

  61. Pixie M responded on 15 Jun 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Hi Kate,
    Well what a lovely, thoughtful post as usual. I am the mother of a girl who is soon to turn 21. I have to say that I never gave a moment’s thought to what she would look like! All I wanted – all I desperately wanted – was to have a very different relationship with her, than the relationship I have with my own mother. And to my absolute delight, this is the way it has turned out. And, no matter what else I have done in my life, this remains my proudest achievement. She not only loves me, she likes me, she likes hanging out with me and she describes me as her best friend. She wants to travel with me. Oh….I can’t describe how that feels :) )

    And yes, she looks like a complete chip off the old block. We are forever being stopped by people who are apparently amazed at how alike we look. She is a drop dead gorgeous thing, just short like her mother, lol. I have a hard time accepting that we look alike because I have had a hard time accepting myself and even now, I brush off the compliments thinking that they are just being ‘nice’. But she gets mad at me if I do that, so slowly it’s changing my behaviour. Very interesting.

    And mostly, I am proud of HER because she is incredibly generous, and kind, and great with kids, and patient and…..well, she is overly fond of spending money but guess where inherited that from??

    I have a son and I love him to death. But the mother/daughter thing? There is nothing more complex IMO. I just love my son in a deep, simple and uncomplicated way. So different to my daughter.

  62. Something Good | A Thousand Shades of Gray responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    [...] 21. From Susannah Conway’s Something for the Weekend list, how I want my daughter to look. [...]

  63. Melinda responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    As a kid, I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world…I still do. Not just because of looks but because she’s MY mother. ;)

    Some people have told me I look and sound like her, but I really don’t. She looked like a black Elizabeth Taylor when she was young. She made a lot of women jealous back in the day, especially being a single woman!

    Whereas I’m girl-next-door “plain cute”, pretty on the RARE good day, but I don’t have the exotic beauty of my mother. I’m shorter and I don’t have her big bust, long slender legs, or narrow hips. I’m much more like my father’s side of the family.

    As to children…still trying to talk my husband into making some babies, but I’ve always said that I want my future daughter to look nothing like me. I will definitely love her no matter what, but I guess it’s about wanting to spare her the pain of being the “ugly” one, which I’ve always been. I want her to be confident no matter what she looks like but I guess my shallow little mind tells me it would be easier if she turned out conventionally beautiful. My husband is movie-star fine (no joke) and even today, in the wee hours of daylight, I was looking at him while he slept. His features were so perfect. He is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen and people always look surprised when they see him with me…little old homely me with the wild hair and hormonal weight gain and red face.

    So I often imagine what our daughter would look like if we had one. Would she have my deep dark eyes or his piercing blue ones? Would any of her “black” heritage be visible? Would her hair be curly, straight, or somewhere in the middle? I’m pretty sure her hair would be dark, because we both have dark hair. Would she have his smile? Would she be tall like him or short like me? Would she be popular as she got older or awkward and shy like me? I wouldn’t want to live vicariously through my daughter (that’s never good) but I wonder about it all the time.

    Would she be a tomboy? Or would she love pink clothes, pierced ears, and be afraid of getting dirty? Would she love books? There is just a world of possibility when imagining these things.

    I know that I definitely don’t want her to grow up hating herself, feeling ugly and inferior and ashamed of who she is. I want her to feel beautiful whether she is a size 0 or a size 22, whether her hair is nappy or straight as a pin, whether her skin is cocoa-brown or ivory or golden.

  64. Gemma NZ responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Hi Kate

    Would be hard to tell you what it is like to live here as I’ve never lived anywhere else or been to the US.
    I grew up on a farm and when I worked as a waitress American tourists couldn’t believe I lived out in the country a whole 45mins away from a city (shock horror).
    As a country I would say we are not very religious, aparently the price of food is high and after doing a science degree there seems to be limited scince jobs and with very low pay e.g my brother works as a welder with no training and earns almost as much as me.
    It is so nice though to drive home from work though with such beautiful views, sometimes I drive around the bottom of the North Island to get home which is very pretty and makes me feel lucky to live here.
    Love reading your articles, you talk about life in a way that some many women from different countries can connect to. How we are supposed to look beautiful but not care about it at the same time??
    P.S your articles quite often come up on http://www.stuff.co.nz, one of our national news websites :)

  65. Angela B responded on 18 Jun 2013 at 2:26 am #

    Hello Kate. What a beautifully written and honest post. Thank you for saying what many Mamas feel. It is scary finding out a daughter is inside. I have spent a lot of time wondering how to NOT screw up my daughter, who is currently four. How do I protect her from the relentless pressure to be beautiful no matter what she looks like? And the only answer I have so far, and it’s a corny one, is the foundation behind everything in your list: self-love. I accidentally got messed up as a chubby kid and became a professional bulimic during my 20’s. For a while I blamed my Mother because she was unhappy in her body and taught me how to diet—thinking, with the right intentions, it might help. But looking back, what got me through my disorder, ultimately, was her and my Dad’s unwavering love. That solid groundwork eventually helped me believe I could be happy AND comfortable in my body AND forgive myself AND not be afraid AND be exactly myself. So your list is wonderful; it already makes you a magical Mama. No matter what our beautiful daughters look like, all we can do is teach them to be kind to themselves, feel good about who they are and understand nobody is perfect.
    PS I am also from New Zealand and yes it’s ridiculously gorgeous but so is the US. Yosemite is mind-blowing.

  66. Jen responded on 28 Jun 2013 at 3:04 am #

    My mom is pretty, I’m pretty, and my daughter is pretty. Having beauty shows you right away how little it matters. The decisions you make, large and small, are what matter and being attractive may give you different choices, but can’t protect you from bad judgement. It is liberating to have 1 less thing to worry about, knowing that you’re pretty enough, but then you just blow right past that concern onto the other ones like staying healthy, working hard, being nice, and hoping for good luck.

  67. Cat responded on 28 Jun 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    People say my daugher (who is newly only just four) looks like me. I see it a bit in childhood photos, but I think she looks like her own person moreso. Interestingly, she has begun to talk about beauty a lot and has lately started telling me I’m the most beautiful mama, so pretty, etc. it takes A LOT to not say, “oh, no….I’m not beautiful”. I tell her thank you, and that she’s beautiful, too. I don’t want her to see my frown when I examine the mirror, and I want her to see me as beautiful inside and out, as I see her, and hope she always sees herself.

  68. Alice responded on 15 Jul 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Hi – i just discovered your blog thru’ a syndicated piece in stuff.co.nz and I am delighted I’ve done so. Your posts are amazing and this one in particular cuts close to the bone. My daughter (3&1/2) looks so much like me. In turn I look like my mother and she looks like her mother (and my grandmother looks like her mother!) – we have some strong genes!
    All my life I have grown up hoping I don’t look like me mother – which of course is exactly as I’ve ended up. So my task as my daughter grows is to show her that she is beautiful despite looking like me and trying not to pass on all the associated body image issues I have – many of which came from my mother.
    Anyways, just wanted to say thank you so much for your blog! I’m a baker by “blog-trade” so I too eat a lot a cake (and have problems with the result) so I feel I will often be turning to you for inspiration!
    Alice

  69. Nicole responded on 16 Apr 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    I look like both my parents, but I feel selfish sometimes when I look at my mom. I don’t like my own moms appearance.. And I feel horrible. She’s a little over sized and looks older than she is. She has a kinda of annoying personality and I wish that she’d be different. I don’t know, I just feel embarrassed by her. Whenever my friends are over, she gets super annoying and I hate the fact that that’s all she’ll ever do. I know moms are going to embarrass you but she goes way over the top to do that. And today I have 4 and only 4 friends who will occasionally actually come over. Other moms don’t do what my mom does, and my mom used to be fun and cool. Now my mom is annoying, needy, and is really selfish. My friends moms won’t go into their daughters room with their pants off and shake their butt making their daughters friends want to leave. My mom also doesn’t really have any friends and I wish she’d stop being annoying loose some weight and relax more. Writing this all down makes me feel like the worst daughter in the entire world and a little brat you just looks on the outside of people. But what my mom does just bothers me so much.