Two-Faced: The Reflection of a Woman

by Kate Fineske on September 29, 2011 · 15 comments

Pregnancy, motherhood, parenting has changed me. And I will never be the same again.

Ever.

I could easily go on and on with a list of the ways it has changed me intellectually and psychologically. Ways such as adjusting my views on:

  • Right and wrong (and all the many shades of gray)
  • Judgment (and not judging)
  • Priorities (and what are and are not on my ever-changing list)

I could continue this checklist to infinity with all the alterations that seem to have taken place during and after the birth of my three children. And for the most part – many of these changes I view as beneficial.

But there is also another way that I have changed. And as I prepare to soon celebrate yet another birthday for myself, it is this other “change” that I am still coming to terms with.

Not a mental change, a physical change.

Because motherhood, parenting and especially pregnancy… has admittedly paid its heavy toll on my body.

And recently I came to the realization that many days I have two faces:

1. The one I see in the mirror
2. And the one I see in my head

And as I age, and have had more children, these two faces seem to become less and less familiar with each other.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Have you ever looked in the mirror, and are surprised to see what looks back at you?

In my head I see: A tall, pin-straight blond-haired girl, with blue eyes

In my mirror I see: A tallish, frizzy curly, blondish- (with-the-occasional-gray) haired woman with eyes that seem to change depending on the color clothes she is wearing.

In my head I see: An athletic, high energy, and focused student of life

In my mirror I see: A… well, a mom… who doesn’t always have the energy or focus many days to do anything more athletic than chase her very quick toddler around the house in hopes to stop the tornadic path of destruction in which he leaves trailing behind him.

And this is a problem. (At least it seems to be a problem to me?)
Because I need to come to terms with my mirror.

The Slow and Winding Path of Age

This physical change for me has happened slowly.

Practically speaking, it’s not like I just woke up one morning, looked in my mirror and went “What happened? Who is this?”

  • It started out slow – with the “war scars” of birth.
  • It progressed even slower – with the effects of “gravity” and time.
  • And it continues on like a snail – making progress that is barely noticeable unless viewed over long periods of time.

And it seems every couple years I notice a change fully that couldn’t have happened over night but just became apparent to me that morning.

Growth and change aren’t new. We’ve been doing it all our lives.
Age is just another type of change. So why can it be such a struggle?

So I’ve decided to take a stand. (Yes, right now as I type!)
I am going to work hard to better embrace these changes.

Re-introducing Myself to Me

So mirror… Yes, YOU! Mr. Mirror – the one housing my somewhat unrecognizable reflection. I am TALKING TO YOU.

As I approach yet another birthday, I need you to look at me and listen hard.

Your image will no longer be a stranger to me.
From this point forward, I will struggle less to have confidence that what I see is beautiful.
And I will begin changing my understanding and expectations of my reflection’s beauty.

Because beauty is an evolution. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Pride. Self-esteem. Confidence.
These characteristics are mine to keep – not yours to take.

So…

Hello stranger! Howdy reflection. Let’s get reacquainted with each other. Shall we?

Look at all the experiences we’ve had.
Look at all the experiences still to come.
And lets recognize together how lucky we are to have them continue.

Leave a comment: Have you ever had problems consolidating the image you have of yourself in your mind and what you actually see in the mirror? How has aging effected your self awareness?

Note: This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival

I am a staff member of the National Association of Mothers' Centers and a longtime member of the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo in Ohio. My husband and I are busy raising 3 children ages 4-11. I have a professional background as a graphic designer in the creative and education industry. Since 2005, I have been using my professional skills by actively volunteering with the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo in various leadership positions.
Kate Fineske
View all posts by Kate Fineske
Kate's website

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

LindaJ September 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

This is a constant struggle. Although I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I was not so attached to the current trends in beauty and fashion but more interested in classic styles, I must admit that part of that was self-defense as I never looked like my mental image of the cute All-American girl. At 5’10″, shoes and clothes that fit well and were stylish were hard to find growing up (that’s changed for the better now!) So I wasn’t so affected by the external signals in magazines as to how I needed to look – it felt unattainable. But aging has been harder to handle. I struggle with it daily as new evidence shows my age very clearly in the mirror. I try to stay in the “now”, keep a positive attitude, focus on all the things I love to do and look forward to learning to do, remember all the blessings my age has brought with it including 2 amazing grand-daughters, grown daughters I’m so proud of, and meaningful and fulfilling work. And the last resort is that old chestnut “Getting old beats the alternative!” Glad to be around to witness how old I’m looking these days.

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Kate Fineske September 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I have to keep reminding myself of all the positive aspects of aging too because, as you point out, there are many blessings aging does bring. Time will never stand still no matter how much I will it to. I think I need to start marching forward with time instead of resisting it…

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Terri Wallace September 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Happy Birthday Kate! I really struggle with the “age thing” all the time. I’m forever thinking, “My daughter will be this age, when I’m that age” and so on. I’ve beaten myself up for years wishing my career wasn’t so important to me, and that I had decided to have a child sooner. I’m going to make an effort this year to enjoy what my birthday brings, and not dwell on all the negativity relating to getting yet another year older. Thanks for the reminder that I can’t control my age, but I can make the best of what I’m doing in the moment. (Now, I just need to remember this in a few days! We share the same birthday!)

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Lorri Slepian September 30, 2011 at 1:06 am

Terri, more and more there is research showing that the brain is wired to note the negativities,it takes conscious work to steer the mind after noting the negatives( useful) to then move toward positive perceptions. This process will over time change the way the brain perceives and we will feel happier . The latest I read on this was on the Daily Good,their science blog, Rich Hansen is the author,I think. Spelling of his name may be a problem since I only saw it once. Thats not enough For me to remember and I am not able to get back to it yet to check it.
It’s nice having a sisterhood of mothers.
Lorri Slepian
Lorri Slepian

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Kate Fineske September 30, 2011 at 5:58 am

I forgot we shared the same birthday Terri! (Although I am certain Facebook would have reminded me in a few days :)!)

Lorri’s comment (in response to your comment here), about it taking a conscious effort to steer our mind positively after noting the negatives, really put into perspective how important “mind over matter” can be. She suggested research leans toward the fact that overtime – this effort can change your outlook… I really think this is true! That’s why seeing the glass half full verses half empty has always been so important for me to try to do.

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Lorri Slepian September 30, 2011 at 1:21 am

Kate, an introspective post.The internal inquiry you do is familiar to me. I am still trying to embrace what I see in the mirror in my 78th year.
My birthday was Sept.7th.
Happy Birthday to you and many more.

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Kate Fineske September 30, 2011 at 5:48 am

Thanks Lorri, and a happy belated birthday to you also.

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gwen October 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I have just blogged in to you for the first time. And I believe I am really going to like this. I am at a stage in my life now where my oldest two children are in college and I have a teenage daughter. I have turned 51 this september and I don’t mind getting older but I find myself frustrated with my body and how I look. I look in the mirror and don’t like my body but I actually work out five times a week and nothing seems to move. It’s depressing sometimes. My husband thinks I look beautiful so you would think that is all you need. But I want to feel good when I look in the mirror. And I try and take care of myself. I am also in a place where I am not sure where life is going to take me. I do have a home based business that I enjoy but find it’s not enough and not bringing in a whole lot of money. But I feel like I have grown so much intellectually and believe I still have so much to offer. I wish I had the confidence I have now back in High School. I’m sure I would be very successful. I do feel I have been somewhat a success with my children. They seem happy and so far have made good choices. And I give thanks for that everyday. Right now for me some days I find it hard to get the energy I need so I am working on that. And praying that I will find what I am supposed to do next. I am also blessed that I have a husband who has a business that is somewhat successful. I still feel a pull of something deep inside I am suppose to be doing. Mid LIfe struggle!!

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Kate Fineske October 3, 2011 at 6:12 am

Thanks so much for your personal insight to your own struggles Gwen. I kind of feel like this post was my way of starting to talk myself through the process of aging. I find that when I recognize an issue and then make more of a mental commitment to recognize it, that this helps me. (Not to mention that when I blog my struggles I make it known to everyone – that my struggle with age is an issue! Which in turn reiterates my intent to focus on it! :)) But I also think that this whole “aging” and changing struggle is going to continue to still somewhat “pester” me.

Focusing on what we do have, and looking at it from a “glass half full” standpoint is on of the ONLY ways I see to help curb the struggle. For me, blogging was a way to reinvent myself after working in a career that just didn’t seem to challenge me as much anymore. Raising kids is a challenge too – and I notice that I like a good challenge. I always look for a good challenge to keep me on my toes! Maybe you’re ready for a new challenge too????

I hope that you will keep your thoughts and insights coming over here a Mother’s Central blog. I am positive that there are a ton of mom’s beyond just you and myself who share these struggles. And beyond challenging ourselves, and recognizing the need to reconcile our own two images – the next best thing (in my opinion) is the support of other mothers!

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Missy | The Literal Mom October 3, 2011 at 12:26 am

GAWD yes I have! Sometimes i don’t even want to LOOK in the mirror because of how hard it is to reconcile the “in my head” me with the “real” me.

I’ll take that stand with you, Kate. Thanks for the challenge.

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Kate Fineske October 3, 2011 at 5:55 am

Yea! Thanks Missy. A good “initiative” always needs some support :) I’m happy that you are up for the task!

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Rosanne October 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Years ago, I led a workshop at one of the NAMC Conferences called “Embracing Change.” It was geared to women/mothers in their late forties and older, as an aim of the Mothers’ Center programs is to attend to the needs of mothers throughout the lifespan (not only when children are young). It was an exciting morning. The exchange was lively and perceptive. Everyone experienced a dissonance between their “inner” age and their chronological one. And the differences were not realized only when we caught a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and wondered who that woman was. Change is subtle and multi-layered. The physical is only one part of it. This still-changing grandma is glad to see this subject being addressed again.

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Kate Fineske October 4, 2011 at 5:43 am

Thanks for sharing this with us all Rosanne. Sounds like a great workshop to have led and to have also been able to be a part of! It is definitely an important, multilayer discussion and something that affects all mothers and women alike!

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Terry Baver October 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

A wonderful blog, Kate.
I often think of the women I admired…women like Eleanor Roosevelt. Their beauty was internal and yet, when we see our own mirror image, it is hard to remember that.
I met Ms. Roosevelt once and she smiled at me and resppnded to my “hello” and I shall never forget it. She positively beamed. Yet for oursleves it is hard to not see society’s judgement when we loook in that mirror. I love the idea of mindefulness…it helps so much of life.
Terry Baver

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Kate Fineske October 20, 2011 at 5:43 am

I couldn’t agree more Terry. It really is more about our own confidence in our internal beauty than societies judgement. And sometimes, personally, I think I just need to be reminded of this every once in a while.

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