‘My 10 and 7-year-old girls asked for belly shirts. My knee-jerk reaction was, ‘No, that’s inappropriate.’: Mom ponders balancing body positivity with modesty, ‘I worry about how they will be perceived’

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“What’s the big deal with bellies, shoulders, knees, and nudity?

I don’t know yet but I intend to find out. Up until now, I’ve always felt confused and I’ve avoided it for too long.

Let’s start with a story, shall we? In my senior year of high school, I was sent home for wearing a cutoff muscle shirt while other girls, more feminine girls, stayed in class with spaghetti string tank tops. So were my shoulders offensive or not offensive enough?

Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

It’s no secret we live in a highly sexualized culture. It’s no secret most people struggle to see the naked human body as anything other than an invitation. Perhaps the art community is the only one still able to view human flesh as art, divinely created; each muscle, roll, wrinkle, and blemish the stroke of a masterful artist. But outside the confines of a sketchbook, even I stumble. It isn’t hard. We are animals by nature and have been designed by our Creator as sexual beings. I don’t think that alone is inherently bad but the perversion of it is.

Using the human body as an artistic muse, for example, I feel like there is a clear line between pornography and art. You can’t exactly define it and yet a Playboy centerfold and the statue of David do not evoke the same emotions. So if it isn’t the content, is it the presentation? How can we judge something so subjective?

Maybe you’re on your first cup of coffee and wondering how I come to find myself contemplating the intricacies of the human body and modesty?

My girls (10 and 7) asked for belly shirts and my knee jerk reaction was, ‘No, that’s inappropriate.’

‘Why? We are allowed to wear a two-piece swimsuit. Why can I show my stomach at the beach but not at the park?’

(awkward silence) ‘I don’t know, I need time to think about it.’ And so here I am, thinking out loud.

It was just last year I finally overcame the fear of my stomach showing. I bought a two-piece and introduced my stretch-marked mom bod to the fresh summer air. Hello, body positivity. But there’s a catch. Similarly to the one that divides pornography from art, there is a line dividing the appropriate from the inappropriate. Inside my own head, I have a dozen conflicting views and I don’t have a clue how to articulate them all.

Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

I do know wearing a bikini has given me confidence I haven’t had in decades… but it feels safe. I don’t have the type of body the media idolizes. It feels as though my body wouldn’t cause an impure thought and with that comes a certain peace. Walking onto a beach with my stomach exposed feels like a nod to the other mamas who may struggle with accepting their own marks. It feels like a guttural cry of solidarity for all the women who have spent decades hating the skin motherhood left them with.

But when I consider my young girls, I don’t feel that same surge of womanly pride. Instead, I worry about how they will be perceived? It doesn’t have to be right but it’s reality. Allowing them to run around half-naked for the sake of ‘body positivity’ won’t change the perversion of a depraved mind and that bothers me. I once thought their ages alone would permit them to careless nudity but my ignorance was replaced by an unwholesome truth. Their fragile hearts and developing frames are not a place of refuge, predators have polluted the innocence of childhood and our ignoring it won’t change that.

With so many conflicting truths, where do we draw the line?”

Courtesy of Raquel McCloud

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raquel McCloud, 31, of North Carolina. Follow her family journey on Instagram here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories from Raquel here:

‘He never asked why we needed the help, he simply said, ‘Things will get better.’: After a miscarriage and husband’s layoff, woman says, ‘Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.’

‘It’s important they can come to you and ask what a ‘BJ’ is and if it can give you an STD. Yes, I said BJ.’: Mom explains the importance of answering kids’ sex questions

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