• Wed, May 2 2012

I Didn’t Realize Bathing Alone Makes Me The ‘Prude’ Parent In The Neighborhood

I didn’t grow up in a naked house. This is not to say that my childhood was particularly reserved or that my family was prudish in any way, rather that ours was a house where doors were shut when people were in the bathroom, showers were taken individually instead of communally, and kids and parents all slept in their own, separate beds.

I never really thought much about it until I had kids of my own. Before having kids, I had grown older and lived on my own, all the while maintaining a pretty open and free philosophy when it came to my mind and body.  What I mean to say is, that I really enjoy being naked. I spent a good part of my pre-motherhood years walking around without clothes in the various places I lived, and even in various places I didn’t.

And then I had kids, first one baby and then another, both boys. I don’t remember being particularly concerned about my sartorial propriety when they were very young, but as they got older I became increasingly, though not exactly neurotically, conscious about changing behind closed doors and reminding them to use the bathroom privately. And to aim into the toilet better, but that’s a different story altogether.

And all of this was fine. But then, as my kids got older and I started talking to more and more parents in my progressive Brooklyn neighborhood, I realized that my parenting choices were, in this regard, viewed as archaic in the world of attachment parenting and co-sleeping. It suddenly seemed like family vacations to nude beaches were similar to wearing your child in a sling—just another way to establish an irrevocable bond.

I found that the nudity norm was not where I’d thought it was.  That instead, while pushing their children on the swings, parents would casually reference skinny-dipping with their kids, family bath time, and co-sleeping well past toddlerhood. I would nod my head, partake in these conversations, and cringe inside, mentally filing away all of the images—oh, the images!—so that I could share them with my childless friends and see if they think it’s normal to be a naked family.

Instead of being comforted by the assurances that my childless friends have provided, namely, that I am not a complete prude, and that it will not be my children who will be in therapy recounting tales of reaching for the soap in murky bathwater and coming up with a handful of Daddy, I am still uneasy. Maybe it is not that I am a prude exactly but, instead, it is that I have not given myself over as whole-heartedly to parenting as the naked parents have.

What these families seem to have that I do not is a more complete acceptance of what their life is now and they have no desire to compartmentalize who they are, in all their relative glory, whereas I feel a real and almost tangible need to keep some things private. I think that part of this has to do with being a single parent and investing so much of my time and my identity in my children. When it comes to things that I can keep private, I happily do so. There’s only so much I can share. But even though I realize that I am not comfortable with being too open around my children, I can at least refrain from wincing anymore when I hear about other people’s family vacations to nude beaches. Boundaries with regards to privacy can, and will, be drawn in all sorts of unfamiliar ways. Who is to say what’s normal? I mean, we all scar our children one way or another and whether it’s by making them overly familiar with every hairy patch of their parent’s middle-aged bodies or by forcing them to watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels over and over again until they have it committed to memory, we’re all just trying to get the job done.

(photo: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Kristin Iversen, on twitter.
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  • Jen

    I have a daughter so my situation is a bit different, but I also like to have my bit of privacy. It’s not an issue of prudishness or body-shyness, it’s simply the fact that as a mom the amount of alone time I get is so small that I jump at it. I will only rarely consent to showering with my husband because I love that ten minutes of pure one on one time with myself so much. While I think it is a-ok for parents to have different philosophies regarding showering together, co-sleeping, etc I know that I would NEVER be able to sacrifice the few precious moments of alone time I get in the day.

  • Rose D.

    I have no children, but I have never seen my parents, or sisters, naked. I am not a prude now that I am grown, and my sisters and I are quite open about our sex lives. Privacy is not just a physical thing, it is also a mental boundry that is healthy for children to learn to accept.

  • Pingback: How to Pick a Baby Name, Parental Nudity and Applying Picasso’s Painting Approach to Parenting at Bunchland

  • Andrea

    I don’t think you are a prude. I don’t think I have ever seen my parents naked (and OH MY GOD I really do not want to!) and that has not made me skittish about my own body or that of my partner(s).

    I think that there are some boundaries that need to be maintained, no matter how close the parent/child relationship becomes. I am NOT my child’s friend. I am their mother and they have NO need to ever see me naked.

  • Michelle

    The term “family baths” really grosses me out. Not because parents are nakey with their kiddos but because they are pretty much swimming in bath water that other people’s dirt is coming off in. The only person I shower with is my husband. If that makes me a prude so be it!

    • Raero

      THIS. A thousand times this.

  • Meg

    I remember bathing with my mom. We were both in swimsuits. Bathroom time was relaxing time, it’s always been billed as alone time– somewhere you can help set boundaries and do your business. My husband and I don’t always close the bathroom door right now, but we don’t let our godkids (nor will we let our future kids) join us in our bathly endeavours!

  • Mrs. Lynn

    I’m like you. I don’t care what other people do, but my personal preference is to shower alone. I don’t even much like showering with my husband because one of us ends up freezing at some point! LOL. My mom walked around naked sometimes before a bath or whatever so it was never a big deal and my sister and I bathed together, sometimes we joined mom in the tub but I’m not really a bath person anymore. I like showers because I feel like showers are cleaner.

  • bess

    Why? Oh lord?!!!!

  • kims

    i don’t recall ever seeing my parents naked. i know i definitely wouldn’t want to. i’m not even comfortable changing in front of or other women changing in front of me, in the locker room.
    at home its different. its almost always been only my daughter & i alone. i started showering & going potty with the door open when she was first born, so i could hear if she was ok, and its never really been closed in the 6 years since then. she always leaves it open, too, but she closes it when we have company. we are both comfortable with eachother being naked. she showers alone, but i do wash her hair for her. i don’t think we have ever bathed together.

    i am surprised people admit to doing this. someone who doesn’t know them well could hear, & report them to child protection services. it does sound kinda off.

  • ellemck1

    My parents have never walked around naked or gone to the bathroom with the door open, but my grandmother does it ALL. THE. TIME. She also would follow me to the bathroom and insist on the “family bathroom” when we were in public places until I was in my teens. I’ve never liked it or felt comfortable. It’s personal preference, but I do feel a little scarred seeing my grandmother naked. I keep doors closed for those moments when other people are around.

  • Katie

    Shower time is me time, I dont want to be concearned about what my kid is doing while im having a shower, I want to just relax thank you very much.