I had a conversation last week on the differences between raising boys and girls, both of us were coming from it at very opposite angles (me – a mum to all boys and them, a parent to all girls) and it became clear that this body pressure thing is not just a girl thing, boys have it too.
The general theme was edging towards it’s a lot harder being a teenage girl than it is growing up a teenage boy, but this is where I begged to differ; I don’t deny that there is pressure on girls to look a certain way, the sea of eyebrows in New Look on a Saturday morning is testament to that. I could also throw in the social media flag here too, for painting an unrealistic image of what to aspire to look like.
The truth of the matter is though, it’s not just teenage girls who are party to the duck face pouting. I’ve seen grown women looking more like dolls on my Instagram feed, nudging me to reach for the extra strength foundation as I tried to cover freckles and wrinkles while Googling Botox.
So my point is, I kinda know where they’re coming from, the difference is I’m able to remind myself that they’ve been filtered the fudge out of, that real life is not filtered. I’m also lucky that I have a boyfriend who loves my freckles, I also have a friend who takes no shame in telling me I look orange on the days I’ve put makeup on in the dark. (We all need that friend btw, it’s a good thing.) They keep it real and after a quiet word with myself that pressure I felt during my brief social media scrolling is gone.
But here’s the thing, it’s there for boys too. Be it mirror selfie’s, gym selfies or perfectly posed shots. We’re all under pressure of sorts.
I’d go one step further though and say it’s harder for boys.
They don’t get to hide all their imperfections under foundation and concealer on a bad day. I realised this a few years ago so took the decision to help and educate my teenage boys into looking after their bodies and skincare routines as that was the bottom up solution I wanted to offer them rather than a top-down approach. I helped introduce healthier lifestyles which comes naturally, as part of their every day, not because they feel they should.
When hormones hit and spots kicked in I scoured the tinterweb with all the common questions about acne to help them, not because of looks, I could see it was getting them down. I could’ve just hit them with “sorry boys, just ride it out, it’s part of life or just grow a beard asap” but I didn’t want them losing confidence or self-esteem just because they’d been hit by the wonky skin gene. While they were concerned with how their face looked, they are also under pressure to look 6 pack fit AND do well in school.
And that was where I rested my case; Boys have it tough too, but as a mum, I can help make these turbulent teenage years a little smoother. I can try to be a positive role model, buy them skin products encourage them to eat the right food, serve healthier meals but I can also balance it out with enjoying the odd fast food, lazy day and never missing an opportunity to compliment achievements whether they’re big or little.
I’m not saying I get it right, but my job, as their mum, is to ease some of those worries, empower them to be themselves, value their qualities and to not compare. So that when they look back at their teenage years, cringe at the dodgy hairstyles and fashion, at least they’ll know that’s what made them proud at the time.