Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Daring to Bare All (Or Not!)

03/31/2011 at 09:00 AM ET
Adam Hendershot

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.

The actress, 37, can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Abduction, and can be found online on Facebook and @ElisabethRohm on Twitter.

In her latest blog, Röhm — who is mom to 2½-year-old daughter Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — recalls her free-spirited mother’s exhibitionist streak during her childhood, realizing that she herself may be more conservative with Easton than she initially thought!

 

I was raised by a free-spirited hippie chick who let it all hang out. Literally! She was all about having no hang-ups, communication, accountability, telling the truth and keeping it real — maybe sometimes too real.

In turn, I am a grown-up person who loves to talk and am open about my true experiences and feelings. I’m not one for masks. Truly, my mother was perfect in oh so many ways, but something new dawned on me last night. Could it be my mother may have had a flaw?

The question of nudity in the home came up at dinner last night amongst a few of our friends. Now because my mom was always streaking in her true bohemian way, I will say that I am very comfortable with my body and do not judge myself harshly over extra pounds and such.

My mother was not the typical beauty that we see glamorized in magazines, and she impressed upon me the value and gorgeousness of our many shapes, sizes, colors and textures. She didn’t think thin was beautiful or not; in her estimation it was just one expression of beauty.

Thankfully, because my mom was so open with her own body I’ve never been embarrassed with mine, or apologetic of its often fluctuating form. Which is hugely important, I’d say! Although — contrary to popular belief — nude scenes are not my favorite!

To add to my unconventional childhood and the parental figures in it who set the tone of my adult life, I also had a step-mother who is a free spirit. Different from my mom’s 70s pursuit of freedom, my step-mother was an 80s rebel who — to this day — makes her own rules and doesn’t ask for permission to live a life of happiness.

On that note, she was also someone who streaked around, sunbathed topless, walked around naked and might be seen wearing a sexy, revealing outfit. I have felt looking back that these two wild women left their indelible mark on me in the most positive of ways. I too, see myself as a free-spirit and not self-conscious a bit.

Until last night’s dinner, that is. When a group of our friends were talking about our kids as usual, it suddenly dawned on me that I might be more conservative than I’d always thought. As I said, the subject of nudity in the home and in front of the children came up. I realized that I don’t sleep in the nude, I don’t think Ron and I should make it a habit to walk around naked and that — although I’ve loved bathing and showering with Easton over the last several years — it might be nearing its natural end.

As the many different opinions were flying around the table, I thought to myself, somewhat perplexed, “Who am I? I thought I was the person who’d be saying, ‘The less shy you are with your body the more comfortable your kid will be with theirs.’” Right? That makes sense! The cooler and more relaxed you are on the whole subject of all things body-oriented, the better adjusted they will be with their own bodies. This always rang true to me.

So why was I suddenly realizing that I might be a tad prudish? Could it be possible that the openness and free-spirited nature of my childhood had made me somewhat more private than I had previously recognized? I guess all that nudity in my childhood has made me equally concerned with the subjects of privacy and boundaries. And no, I’m not more comfortable with the lights off when I undress!

Dinner was quite revealing, to say the least! The husband of one of my best friends, who is a great go-to dad (they have three daughters so he has the “been there done that” attitude that’s so helpful to new parents like us) piped up and said that he stopped walking around naked when his first daughter was 2½.

She wandered into his closet when he was getting dressed and innocently said, “Oh, your penis. How I’ve missed it.”  He was stunned. Shocked, he turned to her and said, “You can never, never say that. Not ever.”

He said from then on he began to be more conscious of her awareness, although he stated that he still showered with her from time to time for several more months not wanting to make a big deal out of the closet incident. Then of course, they had two more girls so he became even more buttoned-up. There went his free-spirited nature!

Most of my girlfriends — like myself — bathe and shower with their children (who are all about ages 2-4), and as a mentor of mine said, “Hold them close for as long as you can. Be affectionate. It goes by so quickly!” So, to sleep naked or not to sleep naked? To sunbathe topless or not?

We want our children to feel comfortable with their bodies, confident in their appearance and free with their expression of themselves. However, it is also important to know you have the right to privacy and that your boundaries should be voiced and acknowledged. People need their space … some more than others. Where to find that delicate balance?

I loved my mother’s free-spirited nature. To this day and forever, her spirit is what gives me the courage to play by my own rules and to not ask permission in my pursuit of happiness. But I can distinctly remember wanting her to wear a few more garments as time went by.

Not to mention, sometimes I didn’t want to talk about my feelings. Sometimes I just wanted to be left alone and not be open. I think that is natural too. Walking the line of not being inhibited but also not being exhibitionists; I think promoting both is important. To each his own, right?

Where do you stand, PEOPLE.com readers? Are you of the hippie vibe, or not so much? Should we bare it all?!

– Elisabeth Röhm

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Showing 67 comments

chelsea on

Elisabeth I love your honesty. I too grew up with a mother who was a bit of an exhibitionist and was very comfortable with her body.

I personally do not see the harm in nudity when children are young. It is important for them to learn about their bodies and not be ashamed. I do think there comes a time and place when covering up is a good idea though. I know that as I got older I began to wish my mom would cover up a bit more, which she eventually did.

I think we spend too much time being ashamed and embarassed by our bodies which will only lead to a poor body self image, especially with girls.

Diedre on

I am a mother of a 2 1/2 yr. old little boy and I find myself often wondering should I cover up? He is now at the age where he knows that girls have “Bagina’s” and boobies and boys have penis’ but isn’t fixated with it.

My husband sleeps in the nude and always has but, I did make him wear shorts when our son was a newborn sleeping in the bassinet. Who wants to wake up to a penis hanging over the side of their bassinet?!!?!? It does cross my mind to cover up more but, I want my son to appreciate all body types and be comfortable in his skin.

toni on

Excellent blog entry, you made me think. I don’t have kids, but I have lots of nieces and nephews. Thank You

TM on

I think that, in general, Americans are too squeamish about their bodies. However, while nudity is a beautiful thing, it should be minimized in the home once a child reaches a certain age. I have a very young daughter, so I don’t mind showing skin, but my husband never walks around improperly clothed.

It should be up to individual families to decided what their policy is on nudity.

tanya on

I love this. My mom was the same way and I am the same with my daughter. Your friend is right, they are only young once, hold them tight and they will let you know when it is time to stop. Showering with my little one is great because she feels grown up, I kill 2 birds with one stone, and we actually have some really nice, valuable conversations during those times. I love it and won’t change a thing until she is uncomfortable with it!

Alana on

Many people – many opinions. But this one is mine.

I don’t hide (didn’t say anyone does) from my daughter when i’m dressing or taking shower. Nor do i go around the house naked. I could easily sleep with no PJs on and i love when my daughter comes in the morning to cuddle (skin to skin contact that is). I guess what i’m trying to say i don’t make emphasise on to go around naked or not to , i’m in the middle of it all :-)

Needless to say i would behave the same if i’d had a boy.

Sara on

I love what the little girl said to your friend. I can imagine him being horrified, but its so cute what comes out of toddler’s mouths.

That being said, I don’t have kids but my parents never bared their bodies to us. It just wasn’t something that was brought up – but my parents were a bit conservative and its more the way they were brought up. I believe that I would be uncomfortable with baring my body after I knew that they could dicern the difference between boy parts and girl parts :)

Angela on

Diedre, your post made me laugh out loud. “Who wants to wake up to a penis hanging over the side of their bassinet?!!?!?” Too funny!

TM, I agree with you completely. I just think there’s a certain intimacy between a mother and a child. My kids are young – 3, 2 and 7 months. My body housed and nurtured them for 9+ months, my breasts fed them for nearly a year, so seeing mama in the shower or on the toilet is not a big deal to them. But my husband wears at least underwear around them. I think nudity is only a big deal if you make it a big deal.

Hannah on

In our house (we have a 19mos old and her sister is 19mos older than that [3]) the rule of thumb is: when they start to cover up and ask for privacy, we start to cover up and ask for privacy. Also our comfort level/instinct rule into that as well…If I’m feeling uncomfortable I ask for privacy, not all the time…But sometimes I just want some privacy to use the bathroom in peace (thank you!).

Occasionally our 3 year old will ask for some privacy- but that’s mainly because she likes to read or have time to think with out her little sister trying to climb on the potty chair to get to the sink.

My husband has recently had a similar “penis” moment. He handled it well, he informed our daughter that certain things about our “special parts” just aren’t appropriate. Little ones don’t KNOW that, until you tell them.

We were both raised in very shame-filled homes…We are trying to do things differently. Our children know all the scientific terms and we call them that (with out batting an eye), though we also refer to them as ‘special parts’ just because we want them to know they ARE special and personal and should be respected.

I still bathe and shower with my girls, and I probably will continue to until we find it weird. If I have sons some day I will probably set a limit “not after they are 5″ kind of deal. I think it’s better to be more laid back than too uptight.

KC on

I question this myself on a near-daily basis. My mother was the type that when it was just us at home she only wore a big t-shirt and nothing else. I’ve never had an issue with nudity in my home and neither has my husband. We sleep in the nude but my main reason is because I get claustrophobic.

Our son just turned 4 and I start to wonder if it’s okay when he crawls into bed with us early in the morning, but he’s NEVER asked a question or made a remark. He showers with both of us and we love family bath time – we have some of our best conversations then! Everybody is different and everyone will see it differently, and I think the most important thing is what works for YOUR family. I’m sure it’ll be different if we ever have a girl but as for now, I’m just going to go with it until he seems uncomfortable.

I think the reason we question this so much today is our society. Hell, I worry about just bathing my child – what if he says, “Mom touched my parts” to the wrong person? Yeah, I did, I’m your mother and I need to clean you. You get in and out as quickly as possible but our dang society has us petrified of the simplest things. Very frustrating.

Charley on

People put far too much emphasis on nudity, it’s only what you make it. I am modest and while I will shower with my daughter especially when she was little, and have no problem with her walking in the bathroom, shower, potty, changing cloths… (like there is a choice? LOL) I am not one to go naked about my house!

I think it’s ok for mommy to be undressed in front of her kids (boy or girl), my husband does not walk around naked or in his underwear in front of our daughter, he says it’s just as easy to put a pair of shorts on…and that’s kinda true!

amandamay on

I was raised by very conservative parents who were never nude and rarely (if ever) kissed or hugged in front of the kids. I grew up very repressed, ashamed about my body etc. I swore up and down the river that I would raise my kids differently.

I have an 8 year old son now – Up until he was about 5 we bathed together and I felt fine being nude around him. Now that he’s 8, I don’t walk around naked, but on occasion he’ll walk in while I’m changing or in the shower and I don’t make a big deal about it. There’s no “Get out!!!! Ahhhh!!!! I’m NAKED!!!!” lol I just don’t make a big deal out of it (and my son never seems to notice that I’m naked – he’ll just go on talking about whatever he came in to talk about lol)

I’m proud to say that my son is super confident, not at all self-conscious and very happy with his body. We have openly discussed the differences between girls and boys (with correct terminology) and that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to body parts. We have also discussed that your “special parts” are just that – special, and that he should be the only person touching his.

I think that parents set the tone for a child’s future feelings on nudity/sex etc – It’s a big responsibility.

Anonymous on

If it makes you uncomfortable, draw a line. Simple as that. I am surprised at how many people shower with their kids though, not because it’s strange but because it’s just never occurred to me.

I only took baths with my oldest when she was a baby, because the tub wasn’t big enough for me and two, then three babies. I honestly can’t imagine showering with my kids, because the shower is so small and also because they love playing together in their own bath with paints and bubbles. But we sleep naked though my husband likes to always wear underwear if my oldest daughter is around.

Jillian on

I love every blog that you write. They have got to be the most thought out and detailed and engaging blogs. Thanks so much for all of the thought that you put into them.

I have to think about this topic a bit….. I will be back :)

Krileigh on

If you don’t like nudity in your house, then don’t be nude. If you’re good with it, then walk around naked.

Do what works for your household.

meme on

I have two small girls, age 3 and 4. I let them see me naked, but my husband always covers up.

Not too long ago we were at a play group and I have no idea how it came up, but my daughter annouced to the group that “mommy sleeps naked”. I know it should not have been a big deal, but I could feel my face turning red. So now I am more aware of not letting them see me as much–if anything just to prevent her from saying things in public. I did explain to her that some things at home are to be kept private at home, but that doesn’t guarantee she won’t do it again.

I am currently pregnant with a boy, and I can honestly say, I don’t think I will let him see me naked like the girls see me. Maybe that is strange thinking on my part. I guess I will just have to see what happens.

Jen DC on

I was raised by a single mom, so nudity in our house wasn’t discussed or a big deal. I now find it funny that gym rats rush to cover themselves in the single sex changing rooms. I keep my snickers and grins to myself, of course; laughing at the truly bashful or conservative isn’t going to make them less bashful or conservative.

I think the poster who said when your child starts showing discomfort with the idea of your or his own nudity, that’s when you start covering up. Otherwise, naked’s not a big deal.

I feel so sorry for infants whose parents make such a big deal out of pants over the onesie and diapers when it’s hot outside. Do babies (in warm enough weather) really need much more than a t-shirt, diaper and sunblock? And maybe a hat? I don’t think so. Plus it cuts down on laundry. :D

Susan Garman on

Hi !!! I would like to share my journey through this topic. Hope it adds fuel to your thoughts.

My parents were born in the late 1930′s. Needless to say nudity was not “exposed” around me or my 2 brothers.The 1st experience I recall was that my aunt slept in the nude and I was curious about that because it seemed “sinful”. Notice, I’m from the South. As I got older I tried not being as modest and freaking out if I was accidentally caught coming out of the shower or getting dressed.

When my daughter, Ashton Caroline was born in 1999, I thought I’m going to be more free-spirited than my folks. I was except with my hubsand and her. I always had him wear a bathing suit if he showered with her as a baby or she had to have steam showers for whooping cough. Otherwise , we were free with nudity UNTIL, she let us know that she noticed or commented.

Basically , I guess I’m trying to say Easton will let you know what she is or isn’t comfortable with. I’m not sure what is “right or wrong” but I do think it is a personal choice. Sorry to ramble…I sure do enjoy your blog and seeing your work ! TAKE CARE and THANKS for sharing !!! Susan

Shannon on

Different strokes for different folks. As long as children know about privacy and what’s appropriate outside of the home and within their own personal space, they will be fine!

Tracy on

We’re sort of in the middle. My husband always has at least underwear on around our 3.5 year old daughter.I sleep in an oversized t-shirt and nothing else and tend to walk around the house that way until I get dressed in the morning but here is the really funny thing. Our daughter wants to sleep in only her underwear. Sometimes I can get her to go to sleep in them but she usually takes them off herself in the middle of the night. When I ask her why she says they’re “too bindy”. I’m not talking footies here, I’m talking about a loose flowy sleeveless nightgown or shorts and t shirt pj’s. Anyway, We’ve made a rule that she has to put them on after bath to play around the house but she can take them off when she goes to bed. I guess in some cases it’s more nature than nurture!

Kat_momof3 on

we don’t walk around naked… but my kids have each gone through a naked phase when they were about Easton’s age… maybe a little younger… where they preferred to be without clothes… of course, that makes for easier potty-training, anyway. I only MADE them wear clothes when we had company or when we were out in public, and let them express themselves.

I will wear things at home I wouldn’t wear in public, but I don’t like being nude… I never have… I’m more comfortable in clothes, or even a swimsuit.

My boys, now that they are almost teenagers, are comfortable walking around in a t-shirt/undershirt and boxerbriefs (which never expose their penises), as their father has always been in a shirt and his boxers, and sometimes they even go topless.

My daughter has made it a game for the past couple of years to strip down to her underwear and then streak around, asking us to laugh at her because she’s “naked”… she has no issue getting dressed/undressed around us, but she knows we don’t do that with company or in public. She showered with me until she was about 4… still does at the pool, but only because she can’t reach the button you have to keep pushing every minute or so to have water… if she can reach it this year, then, because she has asked to, she’ll shower alone.

Lisa on

I didn’t know people showered with their kids. Have a bubble bath, change their clothes in the same room, yes.

robinepowell on

I don’t have kids, but you shouldn’t make a big fuss over nudity. That being said, probably not the best thing to walk around nude in front of them, when they get older.

I have neigbhour up the street, she always walks around in her underwear an she has a teenage son. I don’t know if she’s stopped that but when he was in elementary school, she used to do it, which I thought wasn’t a good idea now that he’s school aged.

Kirsha on

Ah the nudity issue. I was raised by two parents that did not think twice of walking around nude, even when I was a teenager. I never crossed my mind to go blabbing outside the house “I saw my dad’s penis or I saw my mom.” Maybe I was a bit naive but all the same I was fine and grew up knowing that girls had certain things on their bodies and boys had certain parts on their bodies and that is what made us different.

When I had my son I even showered with him whether is it be him as an infant sitting outside the shower or me holding him while taking a shower. I did this until he was about 6 and was because it was easier to bath him. But even then I had him washing himself, I was just showing him how to wash his body. Now he is a teenager and it is nothing for him to go from the shower to his room with either a towel around his hips or even in the nude. Plus he walks around the house in his boxer briefs in front of me.

Bottom line I feel in the way I handled thing when he was younger has made him a stronger individual and is not ashamed of what anyone thinks of him. He DOES NOT walk around that way when we have company, he know there is a time and a place for it. Like many of the previous poster have said you need to do what you feel comfortable with. What works/ed for use probably won’t work for you.

jazzy on

@KC – Family bath time?! Are you serious? You fail to see any problems with that in the future?

CL on

I liked reading this post… I have a daughter 7 and a son 2. And showers were shared with my daughter until about a year ago. It was just time for her to do it herself. They live in a 2 mom household so what they see is what they get. I don’t try to cover up when I get dressed but we don’t walk just around naked or sleep that way.

I have thought this question over about my son, and about when our lack of clothing will become uncomfortable or not appropriate. He knows he has a penis and that BOYS do… and has asked where ours are LOL. But I haven’t given him the girl part talk yet.

So… it will be interesting to see when we all become a bit more modest for his sake. But with my daughter, she was and is fine with it. She has noticed our bodies and has asked questions but they are healthy age appropriate questions.

Great post and great comments!

Tracy on

I’m a member of AANR, and am a second-generation nudist, who has raised a third generation. Even though this third-generation would prefer wearing a burka than show off their skin, they also have no problems with viewing nudity in artwork (unlike many of their classmates).

I CAN tell you, from experience with my own kids, and also knowing other children brought up in nudist households, that they are more tolerant of others, have a tendency to be more intelligent and have less self-esteem problems. My oldest is now 23, and is working on his Masters in physics; the youngest two are 18, graduating from high school in a couple of months with one headed to Seattle for college eyeing a future in medicine, and the other staying close to home to pursue a degree in secondary education.

Nicole M on

I love reading your blogs, they are so open and honest!

This one made me definitely evualate how we are in our house. We have 2 girls ages 5 and 2, and one almost here….. I don’t think i’ve ever really thought about if i should cover up or not, they are interested when change, but mostly now b/c of my burgeoning belly.

Thanks Elisabeth!

Sandy on

We have 2 girls that are now grown. I slept nude, he wore shorts or underwear. I continued to sleep nude until one morning when I had put our daughter in bed with me after he was gone to work and she woke me up poking my nipple with her little fingers. I have been covered since except on occasions when we feel like it and now that both our daughters are grown and out of the house.

sandy on

I grew up “covering up” I don’t believe that it shows one is ashamed of their body. I believe the opposite is true. I believe it shows that one does care about their body. Yes I have done the same that most mothers do. I have bathed with my children when they were really small. But there comes a time when they do get too old for that.

Our bodies are sacred. I don’t believe we should go around flaunting our bodies in the open at all. What happened to modesty? Being modest is beautiful. It shows how much we care about our bodies. And in public…I believe the ones who expose are the ones who seek attention or want to draw attention to themselves which is sad. In an intimate situation it would obviously be appropriate to be uncovered.

Tee on

I’ve showered with each of my nieces and gotten dressed and undressed in front of all of them. As a general rule, I only shower with them if we’re in a major hurry! That being said, I want to emphisise something….

There is a BIG difference between being modest and being a prude!

Jessica on

This is such a funny topic because my mother was raised by European home, where nudity wasn’t a big deal. She was one of 14, so it was pretty impossible to be modest. My dad was raised in a more conservative home. I remember being little and my mom thought nothing of her nudity, but, my dad was always quick to cover up.

As we got older my brother stopped showering with my mom before I did, but my brother and I still showered together on school nights until second grade. As we got older my mom would walk around the house in her bra and underwear, and I think that was more for my brother’s comfort as a teenager. She did however, always sleep nude, and still does. And for most of our lives, my parents small bedroom was directly across the hall from my brothers.

I do think it is at the parent’s discretion. I think if you feel like you should cover up, then do so, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Its when you create a stigma with being nude that she will remember.

Wendy on

I just had a baby 3 months ago and am breastfeeding her. My son is 11 and very comfortable with his body. He still walks around the house naked right before a bath. He sees me breastfeed and I allow that so that he does not think anything is wrong with it. Sometimes he comes into my room when I am changing and although I am not timid I do ask for him to next time knock or ask for permission to enter. If he sees me or my husband without our clothes we don’t make a big deal over it. We all should be comfortable with our bodies and if our children have questions answer them honestly.

HM on

Shower with your toddler is some much easier and faster then putting them in a bath. I have 2 kids 19 months and 3 years and when I shower in the morning I bring them in with me this way they get clean after breakfast, and I can shower and know where they are. :) My Husband showers with our son (3) but not with our daughter. His choice not mine.

I remember showering with my mother/sister until I was 8 or 9 it never was a big deal it was easier with 8 people and one shower I don’t think I showered alone until I was 12 and we moved into our house with 2 bathrooms. However boys showered with boys and girls with girls. I was told that at one time I showered with my dad but I don’t remember it.

My mother also walked around topless until my older brother told her it was making him and my twin brother uncomfortable. And my father also walked around in nothing but his boxers.

Karen on

Hippies (most of whom ended up being Yuppies once they realized love and peace didn’t pay the bills) are not necessarily the parenting model for me. I remember watching a Dr. Phil when a women asked if she should be naked in front of her kids. Dr. Phil called it sexual abuse. I agree. Would you feel the same if a “free-spirited hippie” dad walked around with his sex parts hanging out in front of his kids? He’d probably be in jail. Yuck.

Halley on

My mom walked around naked well into my teen years. If she was getting out of the shower, she’d walk to her bedroom stark naked. If I was in her room while she was changing clothes, she kept changing. I really didnt think too much of it, but then we were both female. I have never seen my father naked, that I can remember, and I think thats a good thing. In general, I think same gender nudity (i.e. mothers and daughters) is more of a natural thing, and cross gender nudity (fathers and daughters, mothers and sons) is best avoided beyond the toddler years.

It was culture shock for me when I married my first husband (my son’s father) as he came from a family that was ALWAYS naked. I cannot count how many times I have seen my mother in law (and grandmother in law) naked over the years. Hippies to the extreme, they also dont shave any of their body hair, and they keep the hair on their heads in dredlocks.) These are smart, ivy league educated women, who feel that the body is never something to be ashamed of.

And while I agree, I am still not comfortable with it, and especially now that my son is older, request that they keept it to a minimum. While they respect my wishes, my mother in law thinks nothing of being naked around her own grown son, or being in his presence while he’s naked (they often used to talk while he showered) so while she respects my wishes, they’ve made it clear that they think I have a weird hang up.

I think an important part of respecting your body is respecting its boundaries. Especially if I had a daughter, I would want her to know that her body is hers and hers alone, and it never needs to be shared, if thats how she felt. And I think clothing and boundaries with nudity help instill that respect.

Vin Smith on

…I can’t find anything in your blog that I disagree with. It is well balanced, obviously thought out from the subconscious recording of a lifetime of experience. That allowed you to be ready to consciously assess where you are at the time of your get together with friends.

I think that is the time tested way that people basically come to grips with these questions. Truly, creating balance in the home is perhaps the trickiest part of family life. Balance in everything, from nudity in the home, to what is expected of each family member about a host of things.

Adjusting family rules from one stage to another is a major part of that balance. Really tricky is when there are larger gaps in the ages of the children. A rule (sometimes unstated) that works for the youngest of the brood, might not work so well with the older children.

I applaud you, Elisabeth, for being very much on top of family dynamics. You are a true role model.

kct on

i was raised to be modest; never saw my parents undressed, or even my siblings. my husband and i have three sons and had only one bathroom at one time, so it was not unusual for someone to be in the bath or shower and someone else at the sink or toilet. we didn’t make a big deal about it. i did not want them to have my inhibitions.. although they are young adults now, they still know that if they come into our bedroom or bathroom unannounced, they see what they see. i will sometimes run into the kitchen or laundry room in my underwear but will yell out to them not to look. it works for us..

molly on

Interesting blog-what great thoughts!

I guess I have thought about this a little bit (I have a 2.5yr old son) but never so much to determine when I might “cover up” more in my house. I grew up in a house where it wasn’t much of a big deal. We showered with our parents (mom and dad) and siblings until it just didn’t seem comfortable to us anymore (about age 7). But my mother never covered up from us kids when dressing or getting ready. And although my father didn’t necessarily walk around nude he didn’t seem to have modestly beyond the tighty-whitey’s!

I shower often with my son and my husband does too and we walk around naked freely when we are dressing or whatever (not all the time like cooking breakfast a la Christina Agueliera!) My son is aware of differences as much as a 2.5yr old can- he knows mom has “boobies” and he has a penis but it just isn’t a big deal yet.

I think when he is uncomfortable with it is when the co-showering and time to shut the door to dress happens. I will just listen to his cues and do what seems natural so as not to “shame” nakedness and the differences between genders. I think each parent and household must determine what is best for them or it won’t feel like an “organic” or appropriate situation between parent and child.

dawn on

I think as parents we over think too many things. This dilema like so many others seems to have taken care of it’s self naturally in my home.

My husband is by nature more modest than I am. We have 3 boys and I never thought anything about nudity in front of them when they were little. As they grew, they were the ones that decided when to become more modest around me and they also were the ones to decide it was time to knock before barging into rooms where I might be dressing etc. On the rare occassion we see one another nude we usually laugh it off and say our eyes are burning etc. If you don’t make a big deal out of something then it won’t be a big deal.

Lala on

this is a really good blog post and i am going to have to agree i think children will let you know when they need more privacy or need you to cover up. i barely have clothes on when i am home and my son is the same. we sleep in undies and that is about it. i like being free at home. he has showered with girls and boys and me. but i felt uncomfortable after he was around two because of the height ratio. but he is six now and wants more privacy now, he closes the door when he uses the bathroom now. he finally knows that girls don’t have noodles like boys, and he graduated from saying noodle to privates and yes he knows it is a penis. but as a girl in a all girl house i never really used the word penis so i picked noodle! it just sounds better! he he he he as parents we can only do our best and hope our kids will understand one day when they have their own!! and let me say there are some great comments on here. the one with the friend and what his daughter said about his penis!! classic parent moment!! loved it!! :)

Feekoningin on

I’ve had this discussion with people many times over the years and find that my family, perhaps is an odd exception. My mother is Dutch, and my father is a Black American, so they grew up in very different places. But when it came to nudity, both were quite natural about it, as were their families. My grandfather and my uncles — on both sides — also never made a big deal about being nude around me.

When I was 16, something rather amusing happened. I was at my father’s house when he asked me to cut the grass. I hadn’t brought clothes appropriate to the task, so he dug around in his closet to find a pair of pants I could wear. When he brought them to me, he waited in the room while I tried them on. Neither of us thought anything about it. However, my stepmother later said something to him about that being inappropriate. My father and I both laughed at the thought.

Had my parents been together, things probably would have gone as usual. But things changed after that. I had stepsisters, and my father always was properly attired around them. But something about it makes me sad at losing the time my father and I could be uninhibited about something that was noticeable to other people but not really to us. It was an Adam and Eve moment, and we’d eaten apple.

Ashley on

Great honest blog. I don’t have children yet, but I plan on having a family one day and I love knowing that other people think about these things as well. Thank you!

Nicola on

My parents were very free-spirited, and only when we got older (teenager age) did they cover up with a robe in the mornings, after getting out of bed. Even now, as an adult, when I visit home, my Dad will wander around the house in the morning in nothing but his underpants.

My husband is from Europe and thinks absolutely nothing of nudity. We go to the beach in his home town and people simply get changed from their swimsuits into their street clothes right there on the beach after they come out of the water. We sleep naked and we all shower together — saves water and time! My son is 7. He sees me naked every day. He comes into bed to snuggle between us in the mornings. He thinks absolutely nothing of the nude body, at this point. As he gets older and wants more privacy (for himself and for us!), we’ll cover up more around the house.

Nardwilly on

My wife and I walked around in the nude until my 2 year old daughter reached up and grabbed my penis. That was a bit much. I apprecited this thoughtful article.

I did appreciate the naked room in the movie “Failure to Launch”

Karen on

A funny story to tell, when my daughter was little I used to leave the bathroom door open, mostly just being able to keep an eye on her, except of course when it was tampon time. One day I said to her as I closed the door that Mommy needed privacy. She said just a minute I know where it is and pulled a tampon out of the door. From that day on we have always called tampons “privacy”.

Susan on

Your male friend should not have shamed his daughter for a sweetly innocent remark. How sad.

Jen on

Being raised in a very consevative, catholic home…there was NO nudity and a lot of hang-ups about it passed on to all of the kids. As a result, I am making an effort not to make nudity an issue. I have showered with my girls (ages 1 and 3) and change in front of them daily. However, recently our 3 yr old has started with remarks about her fathers ‘sword’ as she termed it…LOL. I don’t think I am going to be fostering male nudity around the girls. And I imagine in a few yrs, I won’t be nude around them myself. What kid really wants to see their folks naked at a certain age anyway!!

Most importantly is to teach by communicating…that the body is beautiful and sacred. Not to bring guilt or shame about it.

I love your posts Elisabeth. One comment though…how many moms are in gowns in every picture they take with their kids??! LOL

Becky on

Nudity is no big deal at our house. Correct words were taught. I cant take a bubble bath without my husb, daughter, cats, and dogs all coming in and being my audience. I joke and tell them its ok to go get the neighbors. I will enough privacy when Im dead. For now I have a husband and a child that I share my life with. And that child is now almost 12yo old, going thru puberty and has no known issues with her body. She will run whereever in the house she needs naked to get whatever it is she thinks she needs. Dad and I just chuckle. We love her and accept her as she is and she does the same for us. Every family needs to make their own comfort choices. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, loveing family.

Lin on

Sorry, I just do not think it is right that a family showers together or walks around hanging it all out, especially when there are teenagers.

I roomed once after breaking up with my boyfriend with one of my friends who had a 12 year old son and she always walked around naked. She said it was no big deal, but I used to watch his face. He could not keep his eyes off of her and he never got used to it. He never said anything to her, but it was pretty obvious he was uncomfortable, something she just blithely didn’t seem to notice.

After kids are two years old, it is wrong. No, I am not a prude, but for all these parents saying it is no big deal to their kids, well think again, it is. I certainly did not want to see my parents or grandparents undressed, much less any in-laws. My dad did walk around in his boxer shorts which looked like swim trunks.

I also disagree about the bathroom. There is no reason for any child, except for a very small one, to be in, or barge in, a bathroom when a parent or anyone else is sitting on the toilet. So, I am sure a lot of people will still think I am a prude, but I just do not believe in a Family Hour Nudity Time in the Shower or Hang it Out to Dry while Walking Through the House.

Ellie on

Susan, that is exactly what I thought. It was too harsh and she must have gotten the impression that she had said/done something terribly wrong. It is our society that is wrong – Honi soit qui mal y pense…

Actually, I always “encourage” my husband to take a shower while our littlest one is around so she is able to see and learn that there are differences and to be used to males private parts. For our first born it is absolutely normal and we do not say “noodle” as one posted, it is penis and that is what it is – yes, Katie Holmes…!

This whole discussion is quite interesting for me as a European (German), as I was brought up in an open-minded family – I can remember even seeing my grand-parents naked when they got ready for the day/night.

Of course, here are many others who were brought up in a different, more uptight way, but all in all I have the impression (based on this discussion and on many stays in the States) that European have a different way handling nakedness. At European beaches it is normal, that children play without their clothes/trunks/beachwear on (although we started to cover our little ones from head to ankles because of the sun) and you would not turn a head to look at topless sunbathing women – but that is another discussion, I know.

Brian on

It’s strange how so many of these posts come from people who would presumably walk around naked all the time if there was nobody around. This is a bit strange to me. While I feel completely comfortable with my body, I still dress for around the house when nobody’s around, if even just in a t-shirt and underwear. I find it more comfortable.

If I don’t wear underwear, there’s the matter of my manhood flopping around and I prefer being mobile over pacing my steps to avoid the “slap slap, boing boing.” I even prefer to sleep in (comfortable) underwear for similar reasons, knowing I’m not going to roll over in some random way and “injure” myself.

If I happen to walk past a window and there is somebody outside, I don’t have to worry about them seeing anything they might not want to, and cooking and other miscellaneous things around the house have dangers. If I’m cooking some eggs and there’s a bit of a spatter, a light t-shit can make all the difference between an oops and a red welt on your chest.

While modesty can be a part of wearing clothing, let’s not forget their practical purpose! We don’t buy shoes because we’re shy about our feet, we buy them so we can get around easier and keep dirt off of them! I’m sure kids will appreciate these valuable lessons as well!

Joe on

You don’t show toddlers adult’s sexual parts, because they are pure – don’t foul their voyage of discovery.

You, as an adult, are the one who has to curtail your behavior around 100% impressionable dependents.

Emma on

I am also a mom and european. I will say that my 6 years old son takes swimming lesson and while he change his clothes in front of all the others kids(girls and boys), he is absolutly not embarrased of it, while there are many other kids younger that want to be cover!!! it’s vey sad. I don’t understand. They are just children and they already covering their bodies??? they shouldn’t even be worried about that. I agree with Elisabeth 100%

Brandy1921 on

I’m not even a parent and I still enjoy Elisabeth’s Blogs. :)

Indira on

Yeah Brian, I was wondering much the same thing. Being nude is comfortable sometimes but, certainly not all the time.

Monica on

I have 2 girls- almost 4 and 14 mos. I don’t have a problem being naked in front of them mainly because they need to see what their bodies are going to look like one day. Plus I’m a stay at home mom so I don’t get to shower, dress, or go to the bathroom by myself. It’s funny when I am naked around my youngest because she looks at my chest and thinks Snack time!

Now my husband is different and altho we never spoke about it, he has been modest with the girls since they day they were born. He even bathed with our oldest (when she was baby and wouldn’t have known the difference) in his boxers because he felt more comfortable. He also refuses to shower with them because he’s afraid of yanking! So he rushes to get his boxers on immediately out of the shower when they are around and always has at least boxers on if not shorts too. But he practically never has a shirt on so they at least know it’s ok for men to walk around topless while women have to wear shirts.

At first I thought he was being weird but now at they get older I kind of agree with it. And honestly I don’t think I’d be as free as I am with my girls if they were boys. We are never weird when they run around naked and usually laugh about naked tushies so they are not being taught that naked is wrong or bad. I don’t know if there is a right answer besides whatever feels right for your family is the right thing.

sandy on

I posted yesterday. One important thing I forgot to say is how very much I have enjoyed the honesty of Elisabeth’s posts. That is the reason I shared what I felt.

I do need to apologize in case I offended anyone, especially Elizabeth. That was not my intention. She asked for us to share and that is what I did. I wasn’t trying to be a prude. I was just sharing what I have been taught and what I feel is important for my family.
We are all raised differently. And I wasn’t trying to be unkind. So, sorry to anyone I may have offended. I will be more aware of how I share. Thank You.

cricket on

Why would you shower with your small child??? (Especially a father & daughter!) They are staring right at your “not so attractive” parts. Why would they want to see that? Better yet, why would you WANT them to see that? Ew.

Sandy on

Think about it like this: once your child goes to school he/she will tell his little friends and teachers everything that you do. Personally, I’d rather not be known as the naked mother (or nude father), so I started covering up as they approached school age.

Once they’ve been in school awhile it won’t even be open for discussion because they’ll tell you to cover up. LOL

jd on

Perhaps everyone forgot that America was not founded by people seeking freedom, but by people seeking freedom from a Europe that encouraged too much freedom. Every time my family goes to Europe, we all have to loosen up a bit, since spas and saunas are not private, nor do they involve any sort of covering up, and nor are they single sex. We will never get over ourselves, due to our inflated feelings of superiority; so we will forever think that what we are doing is the right thing. If even that fails, we will believe, like the Pilgrims, that the right restrict our own freedom, is a freedom worth having.

Cyn on

Sandy,

I wasn’t offended at all. In fact, my thoughts are exactly the same as yours.

Marko on

Though my parents are from Europe it was was never really a subject per se between me and my 3 brothers. Later in my twenties i visited a nudist place as alark and was hooked. Having met so many women hung-up about there bodies it was refreshing to be around those that were truelly free of that and it forever changed me. I recommend everyone go at least once. I only go a couple times a year now to run a 5K, but always meet great/interesting people. I do have children but would bring them if I did, as others do because they quite likely to grow-up being more well rounded and comfortable with themselves. I think that is especially important for girls who are constantly bombarded with body image messages every day.

Chris on

I think this is entirely dependent on the comfort level of you and your children. I have boys, 6 & 12. I’m pretty comfortable with nudity. I figured the boys would be my guide as to when to start being more private. My older boy will still barge into our one bathroom while I’m showering to ask questions and look at my face the entire time. He’s pretty neutral when it comes to nudity. In this instance, I took the reins and let him know I needed privacy. My younger son, however, was an entirely different animal. From the time he was three, he would stare at breasts and pubic hair. In that case, privacy was made an issue much younger.

Julia on

No way does having a free-spirit streaker for a mom make you more comfortable with your own body. My mom used to walk around and sit on the couch in all her adiposed glory, and it’s an image I definitely don’t want to see again. I don’t want my kids to be too comfortable with showing off their naked bodies to whomever, although I didn’t necessarily stop them from showering/bathing with me or my DH when they were younger.

sandy on

Cyn,
Thank You. :)

chrisg on

I think my mom’s bottomless lifestyle at home made me a lot more uncomfortable with my body and with closeness in general. It was okay when I was little but growing up with a mom whose shirts were too short was just–weird. Especially the hugs, and then her baffled hurt reaction to me squirming away. She wasn’t doing anything “funny,” though, she just thought it was natural. So, I think putting your clothes on when your children start getting older is a must. Especially if you raise them rather conservatively otherwise.

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