To watch the video message on bodily autonomy click here.
Last week we talked about how boundaries make children feel safe and that it’s okay to put limits around space. I’d say on the whole, millennial mothers spend a lot of time, effort, and energy teaching their children that they are the boss of their body. Yet somehow, we seem to have missed the memo that bodily autonomy also applies to us.
How Bodily Autonomy Works
The catalyst for this was a discussion in the Posse about Moms going to the bathroom. Many women seemed to think it strange or damaging that some Moms may not want their children in the bathroom with them. Personally I have no issue with my children being in the bathroom with me but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong if someone else does. That’s how bodily autonomy works. It means that each individual person gets to decide how much of their body they share with others, and who those other people are. That rule applies to Moms too.
Your Body, Your Choice
Your child does not have the right to your body any more than anyone else has a right to it. They do not have the right to your breasts -whether you choose to breastfeed or not. It’s still your body and you get to decide what you are and are not okay with happening to it. Your children are not entitled to climb on you. It is perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t want you climbing on me right now” or “I don’t want you to be touching me right now,” and then to take steps to stop the unwanted contact. It is perfectly okay to jettison your children from the room when you undress if you so choose. That includes when you’re showering and using the toilet. You don’t have to let people look at you in a state of undress if you don’t want them to- and that includes your children.
Don’t stand like a deer in the headlights next time your child misbehaves. Grab the Scripts for Managing Crazy-Making Behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler or preschooler isn’t listening.
Your Consent Is Required Every Time
You can change what you will and will not allow at any given time! It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like it that you won’t let them touch you/ look at you, even if you originally consented to it. Why? Because it’s your body. If that upsets them then that’s their deal- and that doesn’t change because the person who is upset happens to be your child. The best way to teach them these boundaries and how to enforce them is to model it ourselves. Practice makes perfect. The more practice they have with being on the receiving end of body boundaries being enforced, the better they’ll be at enforcing them themselves.
The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic System Flex
Don’t worry, your children aren’t going to be irreparably damaged by you saying you don’t want to be stared at in the shower today. It’s okay if they feel disappointed and can’t do what they want. The more they experience that feeling of disappointment and rebound from it successfully, the less they’ll feel disappointed! This is the function of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. They’re like a muscle- you want to flex them frequently. And the more you flex them, the less of a big deal it is when you need to. You can come out of the bathroom, or finish your cup of coffee, or whatever it is that you’re doing that you’d like to do without anyone touching or looking at you- and then go engage with them and love on them.
Bodily autonomy applies to everyone. As a mom, you still get to decide how much of your body you want to share with others, including your child. And it is 100% okay and expected that you enforce boundaries for yourselves as much as for your children.
Thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a comment.