You would have seen it by now. The cartoon by Ludwig that was published in the Age a few days ago. A depiction of a mother pushing a pram while scrolling her phone, her little bub on the path behind her having fallen out unnoticed. I scrolled past it on my news feed at first. I’m sure like many of you, I am well acquainted with mum guilt. The voice in the back of my head that I haven’t given enough today, hadn’t done enough, wasn’t good enough. But even though I was quick to move past, start a load of washing, make a snack, change a nappy, this cartoon had brought that little voice to the front. I know felt a double dose of guilt when I touched my phone.
I wanted to argue it, but instead took the kids to the zoo, lesson planned for our next term of classes, made dinner, sang baa baa black sheep to many times, read a story, drank a pretend cup of tea made by my one year old while trying to keep the flour in the bowel to make a cake with my two year old. I told myself I couldn’t write this, as I had too much to do. I need to vacuum, another load of washing, I haven’t returned that phone call yet, my work was piling up. Paula Kinka from Common_Wild depicted this beautifully and I breathed a sigh of relief as her image flooded my newsfeed opposed to Ludwigs.
But I realised that there was the ripple effect and result of Ludwig’s drawing and others that have similar beliefs. That every mother is busy, every mother is battling their mum guilt and that cartoon suggested we shouldn’t take the time away from the million of things we do in a day to call it out. Instead we just accept that we will feel that we are not enough, label it mum guilt and try and keep going. That’s the funny thing about shame and guilt, if you feed it it grows, even when it shouldn’t. When struggling with this, you try everything not to feed it. To complete your to do list, to live up with the expectations in the hope that you can starve it off for a while. However sometimes people who have no idea of the damage they can do, decide to through it a bone or in some cases a smorgous board your guilt simply can’t resist.
You see my kids get the best mum I can be, every day and I know yours do too. But for me to be best mother I can be, I need to be more than their mum. I need to be a friend that’s available if you need me. I need to financially provide for my family. I need to be informed and knowledgeable of current events. I need to be up to date and educated. I’m also human and sometimes I need to connect to another human, to scroll social media to know I’m not alone or sometimes just for a break from the endless amounts of things I accomplish in a day. All of which I use my phone for, all of which I do to be better for my children.
I work with Mother’s every day and have done so for a long time. I have seen them accomplish so much with little recognition. I have seen them use their phones in front of their children, but never to their detriment. I’ve seen them planning dinners for the week, taking photos of their children, writing the grocery list, transferring and managing money, making a MCHN appointment, a doctor’s appointment, running a business, replying to a work email, messaging a friend who isn’t travelling to well. Never have I witnessed a mother not notice her child missing from a pram.
I have also witnessed too many mums struggle with mum guilt. Constantly feeling that they are not doing enough and am infuriated that a stranger in the newspaper had the audacity reinforce this. To all mum’s reading this, I see you. I’m not a stranger in a newspaper, I’ve met you. I’ve seen you with your children in classes, in shopping centers, in parks and at local cafes. I have seen you manage to get your kids and you dressed and out of the house, I’ve seen you play and laugh with them, I’ve seen you handle tantrums with patience and offer hugs through tears and achievements. I’ve never seen your children go unnoticed.
I notice your efforts and actions, other mums do too. As when Paula Kinka’s image appeared on my news feed, seeing other mothers accomplish the good and bad of mum life makes the mum guilt a little less hungry. So please keep getting up and out of the house. Go for walks with the pram and complete tasks however you need too. If anything is falling out of the pram today, let it be the mum guilt and scroll your phone as you leave it “lay on the path unseen and alone”.