The unseen tasks of motherhood

In response to the cartoon depicting a mother looking at her phone and oblivious to the fact that her baby has fallen out of the pram, Perth mum Paula Kuka created her own cartoon. It addresses the outrage that many mums reacted with, and depicts the reality of the unseen tasks that mums do when taking care of children.

One image of Paula’s cartoon is entitled ‘what you saw’ (which is the mother pushing her baby in a pram while looking at her phone) and the other is ‘what I did’ (all of the unseen tasks).  

Firstly, why would a mum be looking at her phone while she’s walking? 

Every mother’s situation is unique, but some of the reasons might include:

  • While the baby’s in the pram, it’s the first time all day that she finally has her hands free to do something else and to check in with the world.
  • Mums have to do a lot of rescheduling via their mobile phones, and usually at the last minute. Motherhood can be very isolating, so it’s essential she gets out and interacts with other adults. The problem is that schedules clash, or babies are unwell, or mum is simply exhausted. 
  • Sometimes mums don’t have a ‘village’ for various reasons (they may have moved house, or they might feel uncomfortable meeting new people), so their only interaction with others is through their smartphones.

What do mums do that people don’t see?

In Paula Kuka’s cartoon, her ‘what I did’ section depicts a mother in a number of ways with her children. It’s what other people don’t see.

Instead, they see a mum looking at her phone and ignoring her baby.  

The image shows the same mum doing the following very relatable tasks:

  1. Baby-wearing whilst carrying her older child’s scooter plus the heavy groceries. The older child is pulling on her hand, potentially having a meltdown or refusing to walk. We’ve all been there!
  2. She’s on the floor playing with her baby. You can almost sense the baby’s squeals of delight as she lifts him up in the air above her. 
  3. Endless nappy changes!
  4. Consoling and embracing her upset older child. The reason he’s crying seems irrational, but she knows he’s craving connection with her and some loving reassurance. 
  5. She’s on the floor playing ‘horsie’ with her children. It hurts her back but those giggles are priceless. 
  6. She’s teaching her older child to ride his bike. That’s today. Yesterday she put together a train set with him, and tomorrow they’re going to plant some herbs in the garden.   
  7. Her baby loves it when she sings his favourite songs to him, while swinging him around. She does it until her arms ache, but she knows how happy it makes him.
  8. She bakes fresh muffins for her family, and gets her little helper in the kitchen with her while the baby naps – finally!
  9. She goes to the toilet…with an audience! A clingy baby on her lap, and a toddler by her side. He absolutely needs to be everywhere she is. She doesn’t get a single moment to herself all day.
  10. The list continues…cooking with a baby strapped to her hip, reading stories to her children, dancing with them (listening to the same kids songs over and over), chatting to them, and most of all, giving them her undivided attention and unconditional love. 

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