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If you haven’t stumbled across ‘Common Wild’ on your daily insta scroll, do yourself a favour and go take a look. Paula Kuka is the creative behind illustrations and written musings with a common thread focused around guilt-free parenthood. We sat down to chat with Paula about the burden of comparison that comes with a world dominated by social media, and the feeling of being utterly besotted with your kids, but also needing space at the same time, and what we can expect from her debut book ‘Mumlife’.
What was the single most surprising thing you have learnt about yourself since becoming a mum?
We had always decided that for the first few years I would be a stay-at-home-mum so when I went on maternity leave from my landscape architecture job, I had no plans to return. I was incredibly lucky that this was an option for me. My decision was based on the fact I just couldn’t imagine leaving my son with anyone else and I knew I didn’t want to go back to work at a design studio as they are notoriously inflexible.
What surprised me the most was that by the time his first birthday rolled around, I was desperate to be working again in some capacity. I had such a yearning for creativity and, as much as I love my son, I wasn’t feeling particularly fulfilled. I had never heard anyone talk about the first few years of motherhood as being boring so I felt like it was such a taboo to feel this way! When I did start working again on my own illustration business, it renewed my energy for parenting. I didn’t realise how important it was to not completely lose myself to motherhood.
When you started your #jilttheguilt campaign, it was all about putting things down on paper to let go of guilt-ridden thoughts. You describe the process as being really cathartic, that letting go of these thoughts resulted in feeling lighter and unburdened.
Why do you feel your illustrations & musings have resonated with so many?
I entered motherhood thinking there were two possible outcomes. You are either blissfully content or you have a negative experience where you struggle with mental health. It never occurred to me that for most people, the reality is somewhere in the messy middle ground.
I think my work resonates with parents as it explores this middle ground. The feeling of being utterly besotted with your kids but also needing space at the same time. There is a constant push and pull of motherhood which is like an emotional tug-of-war. I don’t think we see this side very well represented.
Social media can often give an unrealistic view of motherhood. In your work, you talk about mixing reality with expectation by saying ‘you can have parenting wins without broadcasting them because the only truly relevant opinions are from the people who are there, experiencing the moment, in all its messy, unfiltered, poorly lit, glory’
How important is it that we see a more realistic view of motherhood on social media?
Unlike previous generations, we are all trying to navigate parenting in a world dominated by social media. Obviously, there are wonderful benefits to this. It provides opportunities for parents to set up small businesses and it can be a lifeline for new mums as a way to stay connected.
But then there is the other side to social media. The burden of comparison. Its hard not to fall victim to crushing feelings of inadequacies when you are having a hard day and see everyone else’s highlights reel of wholesome food, gruelling, sweaty workouts, and picture-perfect family time together in sunlit fields. It can derail you. It’s so important that people can see their own chaos reflected on social media to reassure them we are all going through the ebbs and flows of parenting. And we are all almost always drowning in laundry.
We are so excited for the release of your debut book ‘Mumlife’ – tell us a little about what we can expect?
The book is a collection of my cartoons that I have created over the last two years as well as commentary from me and some of my lovely followers. There will also be some never before seen cartoons and written musings about motherhood. It will be a reassuring little friend to sit with you when you feel like you might not be enough. And hopefully it will bring lots of parents comfort and a few laughs.
To follow Paula’s work visit her on Instagram here