When we built our house, I pictured a giant bay window with a Romeo and Juliet balcony off of the master bedroom where my partner and I would drink champagne naked with no rear or side neighbours.
However, just a week after we moved in, I found myself crawling from the shower, military-style on my elbows, to the laundry room to find a towel, so as not to be seen by the non-existent neighbours. I’ve never been comfortable around nude people, and this was case in point.
I have friends who shower with and in front of their kids, or wander around the house naked, and my first thought is, "Ew!" I think that should end when the child is old enough to poke and prod and when they start asking the same questions over and over while giggling. This behaviour by parents should only exist before kids have familiarized themselves with the anatomically correct body parts. Once they comfortably understand how everything works, it’s time to get dressed.
“It’s important to be intentional regarding nudity at home when kids are older than three,” says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, founder of AskDoctorG.com. “In order to teach kids privacy, and respect for their own bodies and others’, we need to talk about these issues and model the behavior we want to see in them.”
Teaching kids to be comfortable in their own skin is certainly a parenting priority for all of us but do you know what’s even more comfortable than skin? A fluffy bathrobe.
There is nothing sexy about a naked mom sitting on the toilet trying to have a quick pre-shower pee while her toddler tries to stuff wads of toilet paper between her knees. Thighs, elbows, belly, breasts, bum. Neither the scene nor the parts on display are extraordinary. But neither mom or child should be embarrassed.
My boys (four and almost two, at time of publication) are used to being partially or fully naked at home. Having their bums wiped, getting changed and taking baths are tasks just as mundane as eating breakfast or brushing teeth. And that goes for their parents, too. I’m not arguing that parents should be naked in front of their children to prove a point about what real bodies look like before they’re exposed to Photoshopped ads, thigh gaps and angels in lingerie (although that’s a convenient side benefit). I just think that having your kids see you naked is good because it’s real and true.
We are all naked underneath our clothes and I’d guess that the majority of the time we are in a state of undress, there is absolutely nothing sexual about it. I’m not going to hide behind the shower curtain if my four-year-old comes into the bathroom as I’m toweling off. I’m not going to send him away if he follows me to my closet when I go to change. And I’m not going to change the subject when he asks why women wear bras or why I don’t have a penis, because these are not taboo questions. These are simple, everyday things that kids should learn.
I hope that as my boys grow older, they’ll come to understand the idea of private parts without embarrassment. They’ll choose not to follow me into the bathroom, but won’t be traumatized if they open the door while I’m peeing. I hope they’re proud of their bodies, both clothed and naked because our bodies are incredible. Mine created (with my husband’s help), carried and birthed two amazing people.
There’s a great difference between walking naked from the bathroom to your bedroom after a shower and potentially embarrassing your children by sunbathing naked on your deck with the neighbours looking in. Feeling comfortable enough to reveal your body, imperfections and all, around the house for brief periods of time will likely help your children feel that there is no shame in doing so.
If you’re not comfortable with this type of appropriate nudity at home, consider that this may have something to do with the degree of comfort your own parents showed you, along with the age, gender of your child and the way in which they respond to your being naked.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Spring 2017.