Paula Kuka illustrates motherhood as she sees it


The Story Behind This Viral Parenting Illustration

Nov 6, 2019

Babies fall.

Babies get dropped.

Babies fidget and tumble out of strollers, apparently at a growing rate in Australia. In 2017, data was released by The Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU) at Monash University that 600 kids were hospitalized due to stroller accidents between 2012 and 2015 in Victoria, Australia. 

It's that last detail that got an Australian illustrator thinking about motherhood — the cartoonist Michael Leunig posted an illustration of a mom pushing a stroller, while looking at her phone. Trailing behind is a baby, who fell out of the stroller.

The commentary seems pretty clear: we spend too much time looking at our phones, and that's why babies are ending up on the ground. Or, less literally, being ignored. But also — kids do fall from their strollers, and those dangers aren't exclusively outside of Canada, either. 

Accompanying the illustration was a poem that read:

"Mummy was busy on Instagram/
When beautiful bubby fell out of the pram/
And lay on the path unseen and alone/
Wishing that he was loved like a phone."

The optics of this alone set people off — here's a male illustrator, commentating on what on sight appears to be motherhood and painting with fairly broad strokes about what mothers do when they are with their child. 

A cursory Google search shows me that while some children are in stroller-related accidents, not all are (obviously). And of those accidents, the source of the accident wasn't a smartphone-wielding, neglectful mother. (Sometimes it's a Canada Post truck.) 

An Australian mother — who is also an illustrator — decided to respond to this cartoon with her own version, which has gone viral. Perhaps you've seen it. 

In Paula Kuka's version, she shows people what they may have seen already — the depiction of a mother pushing a stroller, while buried in a smartphone.

But this is cast against an array of drawings that show what she actually did on any given day. In it, there's a mother chasing her kids, cooking dinner, reading a book at bedtime, grocery shopping with a kiddo who wants attention and going to the bathroom while two kids want attention. 

Like with a lot of art, the artist's intentions aren't always known — unless there's an artist statement attached, or they speak to them directly (here's Leunig on facing backlash). While something may seem clear by looking at it, an artist may have had something else in mind. Or they may have left it up to the viewer to interpret. 

And viewers did interpret it. 

Some made their own versions of the cartoon: 

While others didn't feel offended at all by the original artwork. 

And like any good debate on the internet, it became a meme. 

What do you think? Was the original art on point? Or do you agree that it undermines what mothers actually go through? Tell us below in the comments!

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