Sometimes, you come across a depiction of motherhood that is so totally honest that it just makes you say, YES!
That’s how I felt looking at Australian mom Paula Kuka’s brilliant illustrations that capture all the touching, funny, anxiety-ridden, and even lonely parts of motherhood in a way that reaches deep within you and makes you think.
“I started doing these drawings as a way to document the early years of my kids’ lives,” she tells Babble.
Kuka explains that while on maternity leave with her second baby, she decided to start the project privately — but then after posting a few to her Instagram account, she got more responses than usual.
“It snowballed from there,” she says.
The illustrations capture many unspoken parts of motherhood — for example, the constant barrage of thoughts about what we “should” be doing as mothers, the anxiety over issues both big and small, the endless humor and love that kids bring into our lives, and the loneliness that we often feel.
One of my favorite illustrations shows a mother awake in the dead of night feeding her baby.
“The nights might feel lonely but you are not alone,” it reads, with other illustrations demonstrating just how many other homes are lit up simultaneously with parents feeding their babies.
Other drawings show the lighter side of motherhood. The way that a small child will ask their mother (who is already holding everything you can possibly imagine) to hold onto something for them; the way a baby can sleep soundly through anything unless it’s their mother trying to take a moment for herself; and how moms use “hide and seek” as the perfect opportunity to score a mini-break.
“We place a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to be ‘perfect’ mothers,” Kuka points out. “I found that as soon as I started making confessions, I had people opening up to me.”
Kuka says that by sharing her personal struggles with motherhood, it has helped her (and others) to know that they are not alone.
“My most popular post ever was about overwhelming mothers’ guilt,” she says. “At the time I drew it, I was having a really rough week and did feel completely burdened by guilt. I received over 200 comments on that post and suddenly my burden felt lighter. I received many comments from people thanking me for making them feel less alone in their struggles. I realized what a powerful thing it was to admit to some of these feelings.”
Along with the guilt and loneliness that seem to go hand-in-hand with motherhood, Kuka’s drawings also capture the all-encompassing love that we feel toward our children; the way we crave a break, but miss them the moment we are apart from them; how we think of them constantly and maybe even smell their clothes just to feel close to them.
Kuka says motherhood has also surprised her in some ways.
“I thought motherhood would completely fulfill me,” she says. “I thought it would be all crafts and sing-alongs and baking together. I had no idea I would so bored (there, I said it!). And while I definitely do enjoy aspects of that, I need something else in my life. The irony, of course, is that the ‘something else’ has ended up being drawings of motherhood.”
I can completely relate. After being a stay-at-home mom for nine years, I needed a creative outlet as well — which for me, ended up being writing about motherhood!
Kuka’s illustrations show how we can all be in this motherhood journey together, if we chose to be honest with one another — and she has been surprised by how her drawings have helped other women.
“It was always going to be a personal project and I never had the agenda of helping other women,” says Kuka. “But seeing the response to my drawings, that has become my new motivation … I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing right now.”