The Big Conversation about…plastic surgery?

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 in korea 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 with the help of Sheikh Ahmad Cosmetic Surgeon, 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.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Is wanting daddy to come home from work instead of hitting on the 22-year-old associates what you call “silly”?

  2. “Daddy’s” hitting on the 22-year-old associate rarely has anything to actually do with mommy’s breasts, tummy, or nose. Rather it’s because he wants the excitement of the new rather than the daily chores that are his responsibility at home.

    And I call “Daddy’s” exclusive interest in body shape rather than partnership and family a reason to either get him into therapy so he can develop beyond being exclusively interested in sex or to get a divorce.

  3. Is selfishness now considered a mental illness?

    It’s an uphill battle against millions of years of evolution to try to convince men that “tummy bulge and saggy breasts” are beautiful, but I commend you for fighting the good fight.

    Now let me go see where the interns are having lunch today…

  4. Yes, actually there is some degree of selfishness that is considered a mental illness. You can find out more about that here.

    And yes, millions of years ago when the life expectancy was 25 and we all ate raw meet, a vision of beauty was 13 because that was middle aged. Sorry to hear that you’re still living in the past.

    I teach teenagers to look to their peers for support rather than their subordinates and to expect equality and parity from sexual and romantic relationships. Most teenagers appreciate having a conversation with an adult about real relationship issues, not simply an older person playing at being an adult who is on the prowl for sexual conquests with those who look to him for professional leadership.

  5. Narcissism? Surely there must be some room for nuance that differentiates Eliot Spitzer from your typical red-blooded male.

    The guilt trip about professional development is a little ridiculous considering the myriad women-only professional networks, both internal and external to employers.

    In the end, I still find it best to stick to window-shopping. Wouldn’t want to wind up like the former Governor Narcissist.

  6. Your “typical red-blooded male” does not use evolution as a justification for cheating on his wife because her body doesn’t look like it did before she had children. And if he does, then his wife deserves an atypical male, or none at all.

  7. Bob: if getting surgery is the solution to stopping daddy from hitting on a 22 year old – then the mommy should dump daddy’s sorry ass

    also, Bob, the tummy bulge and breast slope belonging to a mature woman is incredibly sexy. the poise, confidence, maturity, and experience of a mature woman are all complete turn-ons

    when you make your evolutionary argument… well, it’s fascinating that “amateur” websites consisting of home pictures are the fastest growing area of pornography. also, even commercial porn producers have had to alter their offerings over the last decade and a half to reflect a demand for “real” looking people and “amateur” style scenarios because the plastic parodies of yesteryear weren’t turning men on – at least if sales figures are any indication



    i’m of two minds on the whole surgery thing

    actual alteration – unless reconstructive, or deformity altering – is a questionable act for a bunch of reasons

    however, i know it’s a grey area, but women getting a lift or tuck, but not actual hard-core alteration is an issue i vacillate in opinion of.

    if a person wants to exercise to look younger – that’s certainly ok

    but then wants to do a tuck to get rid of a troublesome double chin – is that ok? or a small breast lift? or tummy tuck?

    i don’t think it’s a really positive step – i think we, as a society, and as individuals need to come to terms with what aging means, but if i am prepared to accept hair dye to cover grey – then philosophically, why not minor tucks and lifts?

    i have argued against the need for such with women i know, but am having trouble holding my ground in the argument.

    oh – and for the record, i find older/mature women very sexy. i am turned entirely off by “fake breasts” and the “barbie doll” paradigm.

  8. Please please tell me you dont use DSM as reference when talking about personality disorders.

    Otto Kernberg anyone??

  9. Bob – “Window-Shopping” – there’s a phrase that says volumes. As long as you consider women to be products, you are not going to move past a focus on appearance.

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