Select Page

A season of mama molting

Molting? Yes, molting. Stick with me.

My five year old and I were strolling the neighborhood this week when she came across a cicada shell, precariously hanging from the tip of a long piece of grass.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Oklahoma, we have cicada shells (and cicada songs) a’plenty all summer long, and so I was surprised she even took notice as they have almost lost their mystery for her.

But she did notice and she asked me, “How do cicadas get out of their shells?” Back at home, a few quick keystrokes and we were watching videos of cicadas climbing out of their outgrown skin, a truly fascinating process to behold even for the most insect-averse.

Molting is such an incredible part of nature, isn’t it? For creatures who molt, it’s essential to survival that they be able to rid the skin they’ve outgrown. I have to think that those last few days before their old skin is finally shed must be almost unbearably uncomfortable.

cicada shellPhoto by City of Albuquerque

I can relate to that.

Six months ago this week, we added babies three and four to our family – twin boys who have charmed the socks off of us even as they have turned our life upside down. And the process of learning to mother them in addition to my two older girls has felt all the world like, well, like molting.

Within the first year of my oldest daughter’s life, I discovered the parenting paradigm that included attachment parenting and natural family living. I dove in and never looked back; the philosophies and practices perfectly complemented the things I believed in the most strongly in life.

We hadn’t even left the hospital with our twins when I realized that my old mama skin, the one I had felt so comfortable in for so long, was being stretched to the point of pain. I knew already that my old ways might not be the best ways.

And so here we are, six months in, and because it was essential to my survival, I’ve had to allow a molting of sorts.

Our babies are in the stroller far more than they are in a sling. My older girls refused to take bottles while my twins gulp down ounce after ounce of pumped breastmilk and formula with glee. The rocking chairs are collecting dust as I learned early on that mastering the “lay them down while they are drowsy” trick would be necessary for my sanity.

As silly as it sounds, I find myself looking to the cicada for inspiration. She doesn’t fight the process, nor does she bemoan the change. On the contrary, I imagine it is with great relief that she bursts out of that too old, too tight skin, happy to leave behind the delicate remains that barely resemble the insect she is now.

So often when we talk about change within mothering, we speak about the changes our children go through and how we can best meet their needs as they grow. Far more subtle and less discussed are the changes that we as mothers must make – for our sanity and our survival.

And so though it’s not as poetic as the blooming of a flower bud or as ethereal as a sunset, I’m still going to embrace the idea that molting – yes, molting – is the season I’m in. And I’m thankful for it, for now I can stretch my wings and fly.

When have you experienced a change so dramatic – in parenting or otherwise – that it caused you to outgrow the skin you were once comfortable in?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. katepickle

    This so beautifully illustrates the shift and change that having more than one baby at once often necessitates…

    I was sure I would be a text book attachment parent when I was first pregnant, then we discovered we were having twins, then they were born 11 weeks early… and so many things I thought I would do, that I so desperately wanted to do, just wouldn’t work. I wasn’t as smart as you though… I fought and resented and regretted the changes and it took me a long time to find peace with the Mama I needed to be vs the Mama I wanted to be.

    • Megan

      I’m all too familiar with the regrets and resentment. Working it out every day though!

  2. Danielle

    Good for your and congratulations! My mama molting was the other way around. I had twins first. It’s true, they are kind of their own “deal” and to stay sane you’ve got to do things a bit differently. When I had my singleton daughter later, I found I “wore” her more and even let her sleep in our bed at times (gasp)! 🙂 It’s funny how motherhood flexes and changes with each additional child.

    • Megan

      Flex and change and then flex and change some more. Thank you for hearing my heart, Danielle!

  3. Amy Rogers Hays

    What a striking image Megan! Stacy over at ThePaleoParents talks about how she explains to her 3 boys that their tongues also molt like a snake, so something (like broccoli) that they might not like one day may be something that they like another day since their tongues have changed. Like your average toddler, I’m usually to adverse to change. I know what I like to eat; I know what I like to do. But of course life has a way of changing and changing us. Thank you for how honestly and beautifully you are walking through your own season of change, taking time to care for you and reflecting with us on the process.

    • Megan

      Oh! Now THAT’S an interesting way to use the molting illustration. I will totally remember that!

  4. Katherine

    I’m glad you have the love for yourself (and your sanity/survival) to let yourself change. That is no small feat.

    • Megan

      Thank you for hearing me here, Katherine!

  5. betsydecruz

    What a great reminder of the need for flexibility. For me, the teenage years have been a time of stretching. My old skin just doesn’t fit anymore! My kids want and need more independence and that can be hard.

    Change needed for my own sanity? Now my kids stay up later than I do some nights, but I NEED quiet downtime before bed, so I say, “You might be planning on staying up until 11:00, but I’m retiring and am no longer available after 10!” Sounds heartless, but it keeps me from losing it.

    • Megan

      That doesn’t sound heartless at ALL! Totally makes sense. Oh, the teenage years … I can only imagine the changes in store!

  6. Heather

    Thank you! I, too, recently had twins. They are almost 8 months now, but were born more than two months early. Many of the things I did with my first baby simply don’t work with two babies. It’s nice to be reminded that we don’t have to parent each child the same to still be good moms!

    • Megan

      That’s a lesson I keep on learning – DAILY.

  7. Caroline Starr Rose

    This is lovely. I love the amount of grace you’ve afforded yourself here.

    My biggest eye-opening moment was when I returned to teaching after being home for six years. I developed some biases toward women who stayed home — what I had been doing forever! The funny thing was I’d had some biases toward women who’d worked while I was at home.

    Though I would have said out loud that I supported whatever a mother chose/ had to do as far as work was concerned, it wasn’t entirely true. This was a huge revelation, and one I wasn’t comfortable with learning about myself. Seeing this gave me the opportunity to face it and intentionally decide to let it all go.

    No one way is truly superior as far as parenting goes. There is room for all of us; space for many life phases, philosophical changes, and personal growth.

    • Megan

      Such a brave and self-aware realization to come to, Caroline. Sometimes the process of change is spurred on by the unpleasant (oh how well I know it!). Thanks for sharing that today.

  8. Rita@thissortaoldlife

    Love this metaphor, Megan! It applies to so many things. I am glad that you’ve given yourself permission to grow and change in the direction you need to in mothering a brood that doubled in one day. There can never be one right way of mothering because every person/child is different. The only constant (I think?) is that good parents really look to see what a child needs and provide whatever that is. I learned early to say this to my (very different from each other) twins: “Fair” means both of you get what you need, and so “fair” cannot always mean “exactly the same.”

    • Megan

      I am SO going to remember that, Rita. Thanks for mentoring me from afar in all of this twins stuff!

  9. Sarah

    I so hear this! Our twin boys were born when my older kids were 2 and 4. I am constantly grateful for the flexibility that inspired in my parenting … and someday my kids will be too. By necessity they won long reins, independence, self reliance, and responsibility. And I won the joy of lowered expectations. Wins all around!

    • Megan

      This made me smile with hope today. Thank you, mama!

  10. Marla Taviano

    Making the move from kiddos in public school to home-(more like un-)schooling. Eek!

    • Megan

      SUCH a huge change. One that you handled with grace, dear friend. XOXO

  11. Jess

    Wisdom. Thank-you.

    • Megan

      Thank you, Jess.

  12. Virginia

    Thank you for this. I’m struggling with doubts about sending my older two to high school this fall. I’ve been homeschooling them up till now & it’s my idea to send them off. I need some extra time in a very stressful chapter of our family’s lives. Also, I want them to expand their worlds a little. We moved to a new town & don’t know anyone. So I think it will be good in some ways, but I often wake up early worrying if this is the right choice.

  13. tacy

    Yes. Yes. And Yes. Amen.

  14. Kelly @

    Great post. I got a hint that I’d need to molt the day my first daughter was born via c-section. And it’s a lesson I keep learning, to this day!

  15. Rebecca

    What a wonderful post that will stick with me. Thanks for sharing!

  16. jeannett gibson

    I know this. This. Exactly.
    My first existed almost exclusively in his moby. Attached. Rocked. All the books.
    And then twins.
    Dreams of carrying two snuggled in the same moby that carried their big brother were shot…my c-section wound (festering and infected) wouldn’t allow it…and by the time it healed, they were much too big and I had bigger fish to fry.
    Waking sleeping baby A because baby B was hungry.
    Infant seats and bouncy chairs.
    All of it.
    Completely different.
    But still completely wonderful.
    All of that to say…I get it. I so get it.
    Hang in there mama. Twins are HARD. Harder than you can ever imagine.
    Good thing God makes them cute. 😉

  17. Kristin

    Beautifully written. I couldn’t agree more. It’s been almost 11 years since my last baby was born, but when he was 6 week old I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Out the window went all the expectations for that first year of his life. No breastfeeding, we depended on his love of his pacifier and frankly I needed so much help that any stranger could pick him up and he didn’t mind. I can relate.

  18. Emily

    Fantastic post!

    I love the idea of molting to reveal a new you. Going through a divorce, I held onto the old shell I was quickly outgrowing. Not to mention having a toddler who was growing up quickly. Somehow, once the old shell came off, I realized I was happier. I had accepted change and I could finally embrace being in that light at the end of the tunnel everyone had told me existed.

  19. Greg Weber

    What a great image: the cicada bursting forth from its old skin into a new world of possibilities! And the cicada does it without resistance, whining or apparent fear. If only we humans could shed our metaphoric skins as easily…

    I definitely find myself in a time of molting. Career, health, relationship status – all are morphing and disintegrating as I struggle to define a new sense of self worth. Maybe the reason “shedding our skins” is so much more difficult for human beings is because our skins are psychic representations of who we think we are rather than actual physical coverings. Changing psychological structures seems far harder than most physical changes.

    I was born in Tulsa, and it was nice to be reminded about cicadas! Thanks for a great post.

  20. sonya

    Hi Megan. Such beautiful words…
    I’m at the other end of the mama journey; or at least beginning it.
    My 16 yr old beautiful strong daughter left in July to live with a missionary family & study abroad for a semester. In 2 weeks, my oldest will begin his first year of college 2 hrs away, my 14 yr old will start high school, & my littlest daughters, 3rd & 5th grade, will return to school after homeschooling a couple of years.
    I feel the stretch already. It is time for some intentional time of listening to God & hearing what mothering is going to look like for me for right now. Thanks for the encouragement to seek, to listen, to respond.

  21. Alissa

    This is a great description of what I am feeling right now. My current skin (part time working mom) just isn’t feeling so comfortable anymore. I am pushing against it and starting to realize that the “new skin” might be that of a stay at home mom. It is truly surprising to me, as it seems many mamas seek to go back to work as their kids age… And I am seeing a need to be with mine MORE now that they are school age.

    I will remember your example of the cicada not fighting the change, but simply following what comes next.

  22. Faigie

    I was a different parent to my first than I was to my 6th (my baby)I truly learned from my many mistakes & was able to make massive changes in how I parented

  23. Erin

    These are words I so needed to hear today! My two are about to leave daycare and head off to kindergarten. I’ve been really fighting changing our routines. We have this down and I don’t want to leave their amazing daycare teachers! But I love the thought of molting. Hoping it helps me move forward these next few weeks with fewer tears (on my side!).

  24. Cabbage

    As a mother of twin boys, I assure you, it does get better! Around 24 months, they’ll start entertaining each other and you’ll get to sit down. They’ll race cars with each other, play pirates together, push each other’s head into water in the sink to make mohawks….
    Just a second, I have to go!

  25. Heather @ It's A Long Story

    Beautiful! I think even first time mama’s can relate to this. It may not be the shell of what we’ve done before, but the shell of what we’ve been told we “should” be doing. In the midst of post-partum, delayed bonding, a barrage of new mom advice, and a husband gone 16 hours of most days the most relieving conclusion I could come to was that I needed to make the choices that made me feel sane, because that was what was going to make the the best mama I could be. I’m sure things will be completely different as I approach the birth of our second this fall, but I know that I will find my new skin!

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.