The mommy makeover picture book

Angie_M on 28 Jul 2010 at 1:08pm

You’re a mom who’s unhappy with one or more aspects of your body. Exercise isn’t whittling your problem areas the way you’d hoped. You decide to pay out thousands of dollars, get someone to care for your kids for a week or more, and take time off work to have your tummy tightened and your breasts tweaked.

But how do you explain all this to your children in a way that is understandable? Florida plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Salzhauer, has come up with what he thinks is a viable solution. He’s written a children’s picture book chronicling a mother in the process of undergoing a tummy tuck, breast augmentation and rhinoplasty (the last of which isn’t usually performed concurrently with tummy tucks and implants).

My Beautiful Mommy (Big Tent Books) came about when Salzhauer noticed more women visiting his office for consultations with kids in tow. “Ignoring questions or fabricating the issue may cause children to become frightened when they finally see mommy come home from surgery all bandaged up and swollen.”

A glossy, colorfully illustrated hard-cover, My Beautiful Mommy depicts a woman with a crooked nose and chronic addiction to midriff-baring tops. Her tops show off a small tummy blemished by slight lines meant to portray loose skin. While her abdominal issues come across as negligible, Salzhauer says “All my mommy patients love (My Beautiful Mommy). They say they wouldn’t know where to begin to talk to their kids about their surgery if they didn’t have the book.”

My Beautiful Mommy has been featured on several websites, including Huffington Post, Jezebel and Newsweek, with Newsweek running a comprehensive story on Salzhauer’s book and quoting Child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids With Character as saying, "If the mother is determined to pursue cosmetic surgery, I think it's terribly important to discuss it with the child." But she says the book is incomplete. She wishes that the mom had just said something like, "This is silly, but I really want it anyway. That is more honest and more helpful to the child."

Society’s role in body image, in fact body image period, isn’t addressed in My Beautiful Mommy. Saulzhauer concedes that body image is an important issue, but says, “this book was only intended to give moms who have already decided that they wanted to have cosmetic surgery a creative way for communicating with their child. Depending on the age of the child, this book could create a good segue to discuss other issues.”

What about the book’s mommy returning home after her surgery wearing only diminutive bandages and a smile? We see none of the drains, bloody gauze, or pain that comes along with recovering from invasive cosmetic procedures. To this, Salzhauer responds, “Although everyone heals differently, this book serves to prepare the child for mommy’s recovery and what ‘generally’ will happen such as mommy having bandages and the need to rest in bed.”

Salzhauer says that healing from cosmetic surgery is a process in which the whole family is involved. “For many mothers, their feelings are attached to their children’s so it is important that I understand that relationship, how the surgery may affect it and how I can help. A surgeon’s job does not begin and end in the operating room.”

Any tool that stimulates discussion with your kids around a delicate topic such as your cosmetic surgery and societal expectations about women's bodies has to be a worthwhile thing, right? But maybe, just maybe, a second volume, one in which the characters are drawn more realistically and the situation is presented with increased nuance, would be even better.

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