Illustrator Puts Pen to Paper to Show What Being a New Mom is Really Like

Artist Lucy Knisley captures every wild and wonderful moment of life as a mother with her whimsical sketches.

Lucy Knisley motherhood artwork
Best-selling author and artist Lucy Knisley gave birth to her son (called "Pal" in social media) this June, which helped inspire a whole new path for her art—brutally honest (and often hilarious) illustrations of new motherhood. She chronicles every awkward and adorable moment on her Instagram account, which has already garnered more than 23,000 followers. Now, she's learning to balance new parenthood (and all that it entails) with her work as an artist.

FP: You just became a new mom—congrats! What are your days like right now?

Lucy: We've just started with work for me, so I have a nanny that comes twice a week. I work from home in a studio at the back of our condo, so I take breaks to feed Pal every three hours, but I'm astonishingly getting lots of work done during my three-hour stretches! Once a week, my mother-in-law usually comes in and hangs out with us and washes every conceivable piece of laundry in the house. I love her. The rest of the week Pal and I hang out, go on walks, visit the library or museums, and stare at lights and fans and mirrors with unwavering interest.

FP: The transition to motherhood can be so many different things to different people. What has it been like for you?

Lucy: It's hard to say—Pal's only 14 weeks, so I feel like the alchemy of motherhood was already solidified upon giving birth, but also that it's not yet fully set in. I'm lucky that I draw fast and compulsively, because making drawings about this experience has helped me to retain some sense of who I was and incorporate that into who I am now, as a mom. For a while, Pal napped for 10 minutes at a time, but it was JUST enough to get a quick sketch in! Most of the time it's great feeling like you already know this little stranger.

Comic about breastfeeding challenges
FP: It's pretty clear how motherhood has influenced your work, but what are you most inspired by lately?

Lucy: I'm working on a book about my pregnancy, which was pretty tumultuous, and researching myths and surprising truths about pregnancy and reproduction that I discovered over the course of nine long months. As much as I love connecting with other parents through my work, it's also fun to reach back to the planet I left and tell the citizens there about the weird and fascinating new life on this strange parenthood world. Most moms already know breastfeeding is hard, but the reality of how hard it is was pretty jarring. In our breastfeeding class, they showed us images of peacefully feeding babies. I wonder if I'd have been better prepared if they had shown a video of a sweaty half-naked mom getting pummeled by a windmilling baby who is stretching her nipple across the room so he can look at the ceiling fan while he eats.

Comic of mother and baby

FP: In one of your drawings, you depict a woman walking by you and telling you to "hold your baby," clearly sending judgement your way at using a stroller. Is it therapeutic for you to make an illustration after something difficult or jarring happens?

Lucy: That was so bizarre! I'm so glad my friend, Ashley, was with me for that incident, because it's just the sort of thing that I would have thought I'd imagined. She was there to go "What was that lady's problem!?" on my behalf! It's definitely cathartic, to make these drawings. When you hang with a dude who can't talk, a lot of the conversation is one-sided. I have so many conversations with Pal, or inside my head, that it feels great to get it out of my head and onto paper. I spend a lot of time nursing in public while coming up with responses to people who might have a problem with it, despite the fact that nobody has confronted me yet. When I put these drawings online, it's like I have buddies backing me up on the park bench while I'm nursing, going, "Yeah, what was their problem?"

Illustration of mom and baby
FP: What gets you through the hard days of motherhood?

Lucy: My husband, John, is awesome. He takes out all the poopy diaper trash, continued to deal with the cat stuff even though I'm not pregnant anymore and could technically do it myself, and loves playing with Pal when he gets home from work. We put the baby to bed together most nights, and take turns giving him baths. More than all the baby labor he takes on, it makes me feel stronger and more confident to parent with him. We're good at recognizing when the other one has had it, or when it would make more sense for one of us to take the dude solo for a bit. Right now, it's usually me because I've got the boobs, but John does everything he can to take on extra to make up for his lack of boobage.

And no matter how many times I am pooped on or screamed at or clawed on very tender parts of my body, I know that when Pal wakes up in the morning, he'll be happy and smiley, and it somehow erases anything bad he did before. I think I may be in trouble when it comes to future discipline stuff...

FP: What do mothers need more of?

Mom and Baby selfie illustration
Lucy: Fluids. Like fancy juices and really good mocktails and perfectly warmed tea, and huge frosty glasses of smoothie. Between the sweat and the tears and the milk—so much milk—all new mothers are dehydrated and should be supplied with whatever they want to drink, on demand, all the time. Nursing rooms should be required to have a fridge stocked with pamplemousse La Croix. Public parks should have juice bars that are free for moms. Stores should have a giant canteen of watermelon smoothie at all times. Public transportation should supply moms with hot chocolate and fenugreek tea. And all bars, everywhere, should make delicious mocktails! I will pay the same as alcohol—just please don't make me feel weird and sad, sipping a lukewarm glass of tap water on my one night out.

Also paid maternity leave and affordable childcare, but the fluids thing is my main beef at the moment.

We couldn't agree more. So grab your fancy juice and follow along. There's more brutal honesty, laughs—and possibly, talk of delicious beverages for all— in store.

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