What do you do? Every day mothering

Welcome to the first week of our ‘Month of Mothering’.

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We start with a focus on every day mothering – the day to day of being a mum, particularly the parts not usually seen or represented. Have you ever got to the end of the day and wondered what you did all day? Felt like you haven’t done much at all? Or wondered where the day went? Or have you felt that others around you can’t see what you do/have done?

Whether it’s the caring (care work) involved in raising your baby or children (nappies, feeding, settling, walking, playing, driving places) or the housework (domestic labour) washing, cooking, cleaning) or the mental labour (the keeping of lists, knowing where things are, who has to be where, ensuring they are ok) or the paid work (in the workforce, combined with mothering). Most of this effort is unrecognised and under valued in our society – still!

While raising children is often discussed as being important, on the ground where mothers live, the lack of respect and tangible recognition is still part of every mothers experience (Crittenden, 2010).

Little attention is also given to the everyday practices that mothers carry out on behalf of, and with, their children rather mothers are often judged by what they haven’t done or failed to do (Featherston, 1997).

Our aim is to make visible the often ‘invisible’ to you as a mother but also to others. Mothering, while one of the most important roles and jobs in our society, is still one of the most undervalued and we believe the first step in valuing what mothers do is to make it visible.

By focusing attention on the skills and strategies that women use to operate effectively across different spheres of endeavour (work in the home, raising children, paid work), we can understand not only how much and what mothers do, but that “being a mother” is a more complex, pliable and active state than is commonly assumed (Maher, 2004).

Some Ideas?

Count the number of feeds and hours it takes to feed your baby/child/children, or how many times you wipe, or clean up – can you represent this visually?

Write a letter to your day, what did you expect from it, what did you do all day? How did you do it? What did you achieve and how do you feel about it?

Invisibility – can you explore notions of how mothers and mothering are not visible? How could you make the work you do visible?

• How can you document what you do? In words, numbers, visually?

• Look around you and use some items you have to create an art work, a baby wipe, chux, old school newsletter, receipts, maternal child and health information sheet, odd socks, old medicine boxes or cotton balls!

• Photograph your everyday moments, the ones you don’t often record or see in representations of mothering (turning on a tap for a child, wiping their face, doing up a shoelace)

Photograph the meals you prepare for your baby/child for a day, a week, a month

Photograph the transitions between different activities, home and work, school and home, bed and breakfast, how do you make these transitions and how do you help your children to make them?

How many lists do you keep? Can you represent these visually? Make a collage or something out of them? A stack of lists after a week of mothering?

What do you have to ‘keep track of’ in a day? Can you photograph the important things that are held in your head?

Are there natural ‘sculptures’ in your home, piles of washing, of papers or toys? Can you reimagine these as art works?!

Motherhood Matters

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On Saturday, Motherhood Unmasked was privileged to exhibit at the APS Women in Psychology “Motherhood Matters” conference.

It was a great opportunity to share the Motherhood Unmasked journey with wonderful women who care deeply about the wellbeing and experiences of mothers.

A big thanks to our Motherhood Unmasked mums who contributed their art and reflections for this event! Your courage, honesty and creativity are an inspiration.


Chux Art, by Emma

Yellow Chux cloth with hand sewn clouds and trees

Chux Clouds, 2010


Clouds were a theme in the works I created as part of this project in 2010 and represent a range of experiences.

Prior to having A I was very busy, always rushing from one thing to the next. As a new mother, as well as being exceptionally busy (in a different way), I found time to notice things I hadn’t done before. Early on when A was only a small baby, we would lie outside on the grass and look at the sky; I noticed what she noticed; the clouds, the sky, the trees and experienced being still in the outdoors in a way I had not done before

Now that A is a toddler, there is certainly no time to lie and look at the clouds (!), but we do spend time each day outside and enjoy playing at the park and in the backyard together. I have a new appreciation for the environment and for the facilities that we have in our neighbourhood.

The clouds in the work are made from material found at home, representing the resourcefulness of new parents (you draw on what you can as a mother). The other clouds are made from information we have received throughout our journey as parents. While on one hand receiving information can be helpful and empowering, on the other it can be an illusion for real choices. For example, while there is exhaustive amounts of information about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months, we don’t have maternity leave provisions for this time, so this is not a realistic option for many mothers.


Yellow chux cloth with "What do you do?" hand sewn in red thread

Chux Art, 2010


This work references a question you often get asked by other people, and a question you often ask yourself as a new mother….’what do you do?’.

Sometimes I feel there is still an under-valuing of the work mothers do, and because it is hard to ‘measure’ this work concretely, there is often an assumption that it is ‘time off’ or leisure time, not ‘real work’.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In my experience (both personally and among the other mothers I know) mothers do so much, in fact I think it is probably one of the busiest and most challenging (and rewarding) roles in our society.

In my experience what I do as a mother, is an interesting contradiction. On one hand there is the ‘drudgery of the domestic sphere’, as much of your time is taken up by housework (hence the work on chux). On the other hand, you are raising a human being, each interaction you have with your baby is part of the process of development, as one commentator puts it ‘our whole society depends on the way each mother relates to her child; this is her motherly work’.