The Cover Up: When motherhood is not as it seems


There’s something wrong with this picture.

In the blink of an eye between being a student and a mother, those fleeting moments “disposable income” was a thing, I subscribed to this magazine.

I would receive and read each month, then take to share with colleagues in my workplace lunch room.

Sometimes we’d look at the images and dream of living as the women pictured did - the ones who ran their hands through the tips of grasses and smiling while inspecting fleece - then glance at the clock and run back to our respective positions.

It didn’t take long working on only a tiny farm, spending every daylight hour hoeing weeds from paddocks, to figure out the scenes pictured were likely not the daily reality of life on the land.

Sometimes we’d admire eco-friendly modern houses or tastefully renovated homesteads that were rustic but not “too rustic”, with all the creature comforts.

A deeper dig into the article and you’d see these projects were funded by selling a squillion dollar mansion in Sydney to move back to their parents’ fifth-generation, mortgage-free family acreage.

Sometimes we’d look at mothers chasing (suspiciously clean) white linen-clad children across gardens and beside creeks, overflowing picnics hampers waiting nearby. “I want that childhood for my kids” was the murmur that went around.

And while I could pick up on the obvious at the time (that this mother had more time to pour into her successful business and work the farm than my colleagues who envied her did simply because her kids were at boarding school 40 weeks of the year) the subtleties of the myths of motherhood were lost on me.

In the midst of the great de-mould and de-cluttering of 2022, I found my stack of magazines.

The cover of the one on top of the pile here has some interesting messages to deconstruct.

If nothing else, the fact there are three chickens on a verandah who are not up on the table pecking shiny glassware or pooping on the floor tells me all is not as it seems.

A closer inspection into this Christmas “family time” cover reveals there are four places set at the table, each with a glass of wine at the ready.

Unless the child pictured has a penchant for rosé, this cover suggests spending mealtime “together for the holidays” is for adults only, kids somewhere unseen and ideally not interrupting.

And while I’m not here to beat up on this specific magazine, anyone’s schooling choices, table settings or rural living as a whole (the stats on family farms going bust in recent years, rural suicide and health inequities are horrendous) my point is that media of all formats reflects and reinforces the dominant cultural perspectives on “good motherhood” and the role of children in our society.

Until we start to notice and pick apart the messages we are receiving at every turn, we will never, ever feel up to scratch.

Because we don’t need the acreage or backyard chooks.

We don’t need the pressed linen clothes or expensive table setting.

We don’t need the “inspirational” label or award-winning side hustle.

We just need support, a commitment to lifting each other up not cutting each other down, and the knowledge we are good enough, both for ourselves and for our kids.

Because we are all doing our best, and your best IS enough.

Just don’t let the magazines tell you otherwise.



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