Ready to be appalled?

The big story that’s been making the rounds on lots of blogs this week is about a new book coming out that explains mom’s upcoming plastic surgery to kids in much the same way that other books explain going to the dentist or non-standard family organization. You can find more about the book here.

There are so many things that are wrong with this book it’s hard for me to know where to begin.

Let’s start with women’s poor self-esteem that they feel their bodies must look pre-children even post-children. Our bodies change with the birth of our children, often irrevocably. But women feel that they have to stay “young” and “attractive” within a very narrow definition, and so they have plastic surgery. This is a dreadful psychological game to play, and can have serious side effects (up-to-and-including death, because plastic surgery can be a serious operation).

Let’s move on to the permanent distortion of a child’s self-image and understanding of beauty that comes with deciding to (for example, as the book explains) re-shape your body to fit into your clothes rather than get new clothes to shape your body. Or let’s take the phrase “Not just different – prettier!” that describes what the mother will look like after a tummy tuck, a nose job, and breast implants. The body image issues that this book plants deep inside young girls’ heads are outrageous!
One person Newsweek interviewed suggested that rather than basing the surgery on the need to augment the mother’s physical beauty, the storybook mama should have said something along the lines of “It’s silly, but I want to do it anyway, so I’m going to.” At least that’s slightly more honest.

Because what I am working always to teach children and teenager is that one can have a tummy bulge and saggy breasts and still be beautiful. Expanding our culture’s image of beauty is where our focus with our children needs to be – not justifying the lack of balance and understanding.

So while I have not actually read the entirety of My Beautiful Mommy by Dr. Michael Salzhauer (just the excerpts from the Newsweek website), I feel absolutely confident in saying it’s a book that should never be read to actual children.

Of course, I wish that there were no children who had need to know why their mothers are going in for surgery and will look different (maybe prettier, maybe not) afterwards. But when mothers give up on their own, natural physical beauty and buy into the customized, unified, stereotypical version and get plastic surgery, I’m with Elizabeth Berger, the child psychiatrist who suggests that mothers just own up to wanting something silly and presenting it to their children in such a light.