Mom's having tummy tuck? What to tell the kids

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mom’s getting a tummy tuck and a new nose. But how does she tell her kids?

The cover of the children's book "My Beautiful Mommy" is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters April 17, 2008. A Florida plastic surgeon has written the first known picture book aimed at 4-7 year-olds that seeks to reassure them about Mom going under the knife. REUTERS/Handout

A Florida plastic surgeon has written the first known picture book aimed at 4-7 year-olds that seeks to reassure them about mom going under the knife.

But the book, “My Beautiful Mommy”, has stirred up a hornet’s nest among feminists and even some cosmetic surgeons who feel it may undermine the self-esteem of the very young.

Dr Michael Salzhauer, a father of four, said he wrote the book because many of his patients are having “mommy makeovers” to fix saggy breasts and slack tummies a few years after childbirth and were concerned about what to tell their kids.

“It sounds like a joke but there really is a need to address this issue,” Salzhauer told Reuters. “It is for the mom who has already booked her plastic surgery and now has to tell her kids, why she is going to be in bed, why daddy is picking the kids up from school and all those other issues.”

“Hundreds of thousands of women have this operation in the United States. This is for a specific consumer at a specific time in their life that is going to turn their household upside down for a couple of weeks.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 1.8 million plastic surgery procedures were performed in the United States in 2007 -- most of them breast augmentations and liposuction.

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Salzhauer said feedback to the book from his own patients has been very positive. But some of the explanations from the attractive, cartoon-style mom in the book have sparked a furious online debate.

“As I got older, my body stretched and I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. Dr Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better,” the mother tells her daughter.

Her nose surgery, she explains, will make her look “not just different, my dear -- prettier!”.

Jessica Valenti, executive editor of the Web site, said she did not wish to sit in judgment of those who get plastic surgery.

“But do we really have to teach our kids that we need it to ‘feel better’ and be ‘beautiful’? Ugh,” Valenti wrote.

Dr Stephen Greenberg, a New York cosmetic surgeon and author of “A Little Nip, A Little Tuck”, said elementary school age children should not be exposed to plastic surgery.

“Let them feel that self esteem comes from within and not necessarily related to how somebody looks,” Greenberg said.

Salzhauer said he was taken aback by the criticism -- most of it from people who have not read the entire book. “They are judging the book by its cover, which is kind of ironic.

“This book was written with the best of intentions. It wasn’t trying to corrupt society. It is not glamorizing plastic surgery. It is not intended to be a best seller that children read with their parents before they go to sleep,” he said.