Did you know that mommy ducks build their nests with feathers they pluck from their chests? Neither did I, but it makes sense. A mother duck is the same as every other kind of mom out there: she endures the often painful sting of sacrifice so that she might create a safe place for her children. It seems that mother ducks understand the balance between motherhood and self-care. But what happens when a mommy duck becomes over-plucked?
A few weeks ago I listened to a really great speaker at a mom group that I take part in. Her name is Melissa Harding, and she authored the book Mother Hen Flew the Coop. Melissa shared lots of great thoughts about motherhood that stuck with me, but her story about mother ducks stood out the most.
In a sense, we are all mother ducks. We sacrifice, every single day, to make sure that our children can have access to the best life has to offer. Moms cook, clean, do laundry and manage household schedules full of homework, projects and extracurricular activities. It seems like we are always waking up first, eating last and worrying if we are doing motherhood right. Mothers around the globe work day in and day out to make sure that their children have as many opportunities to flourish as possible. And in doing it all (or at least attempting to), we are plucking ourselves buck naked. And, on top of walking around plucked and shivering, we have the nerve to believe the foolish and damaging lie that there are moms who are way, way better at momming than we could ever hope to be.
So how can we combat the unhealthy cycle of comparison and over-plucking? Try asking yourself these three questions:
1. What are my feathers?
We all have mom skills that we rock at. It’s important that we acknowledge these skills and build upon them. Like cooking? Try some fun, kid-friendly recipes with your kids. Are you the mom of a thousand silly voices? Build in some extra time for singing and reading stories during your bed time routine. Think about what you do well and do more of that! Don’t miss out on the best parts of motherhood trying to be perfect. So much of what makes this journey special is the memories we make and the time we spend with our children, and trust me, they love your feathers more than you know.
2. Where am I using my feathers?
Mommy ducks use only the feathers from their chest to build their nests. They have mastered the art of finding balance between their needs and the needs of their ducklings. What about you? Are you using all of your feathers and losing yourself? When we try too hard to do what works for other moms or what we think good moms are supposed to do, we end up out of balance and plucked naked. Sanity and self-care are feathers that need to stay on your body; don’t sacrifice these feathers unnecessarily just to feel worthy of comparison. You are already worthy. You are already enough. If you’re doing it all, there is no balance.
3. Where am I using someone else’s feathers?
While you and other moms you know may have some common feathers, you’re bound to have many feathers that are different. In other words, what works for them may not work for you and vice versa. Don’t try too hard to mother the same way your friends and other moms you know. It’s ok to glean from others and try new things sometimes because that’s how we learn works for our families. But if doing things another mom’s way is stressing you or your kids out, let it go. That is not your feather!
But I Like HER Feathers…
Know this, friends: we can’t live full, happy lives if we spend our time comparing ourselves to other moms. The mom whose house is never messy. Your neighbor with the incredible career. The woman at the supermarket with the super polite and perfectly behaved children. Oh, and what about the mom who cooks gourmet organic vegan meals from scratch six days a week? Or the one with the killer body who eats junk foods that seem to make you fat just from looking at them? And what about the mom who just has it all together– or so it seems.
Comparing ourselves to other moms is something we’ve all fallen prey to, even when we are trying our best not to do so. I’m here to tell you, we are all in this motherhood thing together and none of us does it perfectly. There is not, nor has there ever been, a woman whose career as a mother didn’t suffer many a speed bump, road block or terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. Comparing ourselves to our perceptions of others– and that’s just what they are, PERCEPTIONS– tends to lead us down the road to spreading thin; doing it all, being it all, giving it all. Consequently we have less of our best selves to offer our families. Follow your own path, mama, use what you’ve got, explore your talents, and let your path lead you to the happiest place for YOU.
Take Care of Your Feathers
Motherhood is full to the brim of emotional ups and downs and we will sometimes wonder if we are doing a good job as moms. If ever you find yourself longing for some other mom’s life, ask yourself these three questions. Your answers will remind you who you are, what makes you special and what you’re good at. You’ll be able to better prioritize your time and effort and ultimately create a more effective balance of motherhood and self. Good luck Mommy Duck!