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This study examined whether life satisfaction varied among women who occupy different motherhood statuses, and if these variations were influenced by differences in…
This study examined whether life satisfaction varied among women who occupy different motherhood statuses, and if these variations were influenced by differences in women’s internalization of cultural motherhood norms. We distinguished among women as biological mothers, stepmothers, and “double mothers,” who were both biological and stepmothers. We also included two groups of women without children: voluntary childfree and involuntary childless women.
Data were drawn from the National Study of Fertility Barriers and analyzed using OLS regression.
Biological mothers reported greater life satisfaction than women in other motherhood statuses. Accounting for the internalization of motherhood norms, double mothers had significantly lower life satisfaction compared to biological mothers, but voluntary childfree women had significantly greater life satisfaction. More detailed analyses indicated that internalization of cultural norms only appears to influence the life satisfaction of women with biological children.
The results suggest that it may not simply be motherhood that affects women’s well-being, but rather that women’s internalization of motherhood ideals, particularly when it corresponds with their motherhood status, significantly impacts well-being. Limitations of this study include small cell sizes for some categories of women where additional distinctions may have been useful, such as lesbian or adoptive mothers. Future work should incorporate diverse family forms and expand on the newly named category “double mothers.”
By providing a more nuanced approach to categorizing motherhood status, including identifying double mothers, stepmothers-only, and two groups of childless women, the study added detail that has been overlooked in previous work on well-being.
Purpose – This chapter shows how professional women from diverse geographic locations claim belonging in the public sphere by using motherhood as an important strategy for…
Purpose – This chapter shows how professional women from diverse geographic locations claim belonging in the public sphere by using motherhood as an important strategy for negotiating gendered and classed spaces of belonging while constructing moral agency and proper citizenship as women.
Methodology/Approach – During anthropological research in Sudan and Mexico, the biographic narratives of two women, both key informants in larger, long-term ethnographic projects, were obtained by each researcher by engaging in a process of intersubjective knowledge production. These were analysed using the method of context analysis for dialogically constructed ‘narrations of the nation’.
Findings – The trope of moral motherhood works in widely differing national contexts as a means for women to claim a position in a public space and at the same time to negotiate the boundaries between private and public domains. Invoking this trope enables professional women to forge public belonging and to participate in politics, while still safeguarding their femininity and their decency.
Originality – This chapter demonstrates that national discourses about motherhood can be instrumental in creating a sense of civic belonging for professional women in two nation-states with widely diverse (post)colonial histories. Comparing narratives of belonging from such different national contexts can provide insight into belonging as an intrinsic part of identity constructions in paternalistic states. Both narratives show similarities in the way that motherhood constitutes a trope for active female citizenship whereby women actively claim public spaces and contest dominant discourses, which in the process de-essentializes motherhood.
Purpose – The transition into motherhood is a major life course event for most women, and is one that can be fraught with difficulties due to the uncertainty and…
Purpose – The transition into motherhood is a major life course event for most women, and is one that can be fraught with difficulties due to the uncertainty and instability which accompanies it. Previous research has explored what factors interplay within this transition with identity changes being considered a key attribute. By using assemblage theory, this study aims to undertake an innovative approach to conceptualising identity. Assemblage theory permitted an exploration of how an identity comes to be assembled and embodied through a mother’s relationality with the social world around her as opposed to merely exploring identity as a static entity of a fixed, organic whole as has predominantly been done previously. Assemblage theory is premised upon understanding processes of becoming as opposed to states of being and as such takes a machinic approach to understanding wholes. Rather than being organic totalities, they are conceptualised as being transient and fluid entities comprising an amalgamation of interchangeable components which collectively stabilise to make up the whole. At times of change, an individual’s ties to an identity undergo deterritorialisation, or weaken, as their sense of self and identity readjusts before then experiencing reterritorialisation once they (re)established their ties to a new identity or role. By conceptualising the mothers as assemblages in this manner, it became possible to understand how the women reconstructed their selves and identities through the situated practices and experiences in their everyday lives as they established ties to their new role as a mother.
Methodology/Approach – Results are presented from biographical narrative interviews with 10 mothers each at different stages in motherhood. The interviews focussed on inducing uninterrupted narratives detailing the lived experiences of these women as they transitioned into and across motherhood. These interviews highlighted key stages in the transition into motherhood where a woman’s identity and sense of self would become destabilised and reformulated as a result of changes in her everyday lived experiences and routines.
Findings – Transitioning into motherhood proved to be a multifaceted process that comprises numerous stages where the new mothers identities would become unstable and deterritorialise as they faced new routines in their everyday life as they became a mother and settled into the role. Four dominant themes emerged during data analysis; emotional turmoil, the reconstruction of relationships, getting comfortable with their baby as well as rediscovering the self. The women largely experienced emotional turmoil as their identities became deterritorialised and reported that the relationships they held with others around them often changed or broke down entirely. It was not until they became comfortable with their baby and their role as a mother that they were able to rediscover their ‘self’ beyond simply being a mother. Once they reached this stage in the transition their identity was able to reterritorialise, becoming more stable as a result.
Originality/Value – This study not only presents an innovative method for conceptualising identity but also demonstrates the value of assemblage theory for conceptualising identity formulation and capturing the fluid and emergent nature of such processes. It demonstrates how assemblage theory can be utilised to further understandings of the multifaceted and ongoing nature of life course transitions. This study sheds light on the potential for assemblage theory to be utilised across a range of sociological topics relating to identity formulation, with such studies having the potential to really broaden the scope of sociological understandings of identity formation and life course transitions.
This chapter examines how women deploy gendered motherhood norms to publicly challenge abortion stigma. Drawing on a sample of 41 abortion stories from women living in…
This chapter examines how women deploy gendered motherhood norms to publicly challenge abortion stigma. Drawing on a sample of 41 abortion stories from women living in Tennessee, I find that women evoke notions of intensive, total, and idealized motherhood in order to manage and challenge the stigma of an abortion. A large proportion of these stories were written by married mothers who emphasized their identities as good mothers and wives. A close qualitative analysis of these trends reveals two dominant forms of recasting abortion. First, abortion is framed as an extension of total mothering to spare an unborn baby from risky health conditions. Part of this includes casting abortion as an often-necessary choice in order for a woman to develop into the perfect mother for the benefit of her children – altruistic self-development. Second, abortion is construed as a form of maternal protection of current children to continue intensively mothering them. Both themes speak to women’s strategies for reframing abortion as a health practice to promote the well-being of children. These findings have implications for the study of medical stigma, reproduction, and the impact of gender ideals on women’s health choices.
This chapter shows how professional athlete-motherhood is presented by the mainstream media and challenged by self-representation on social media, using arguably one of…
This chapter shows how professional athlete-motherhood is presented by the mainstream media and challenged by self-representation on social media, using arguably one of the most successful professional athletes of all time, Serena Williams, as a case study. We suggest that Williams' use of social media has allowed motherhood to be a part of her entrepreneurial self, accessing sponsorship and endorsements while also normalising struggles and using her platform to raise awareness of what it means to be a ‘working mother’. In comparison, mainstream media presents athlete-motherhood as either the athlete-mother as a transgressor or as the ‘super mum’, a theme where the athlete manages the demands of motherhood with sport and does it all ‘perfectly’. While mainstream media may present these two tensions and speculate on what women's bodies should be able to do, Williams reminds us through her social media that her professional status does not disappear, she is not ‘coming back’ from becoming a mother, it's a part of who she is, thus, showing that motherhood can be part of being a professional athlete and can be celebrated via online self-presentations. We conclude with a call for future work to explore the understanding of the pregnant athlete beyond a case study of a global celebrity athlete to look at the experiences of athlete-mother at other levels of sport and society.
Purpose – Within cultural discourse, prescriptions for “good” motherhood exist. To further the analysis of these prescriptions, we examine how media conversations about…
Purpose – Within cultural discourse, prescriptions for “good” motherhood exist. To further the analysis of these prescriptions, we examine how media conversations about Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and First Lady Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential election campaign illustrate existing notions of good motherhood.Methods – Using qualitative content analysis techniques, we review media discourse about Palin, Clinton, and Obama during this campaign. We use existing feminist literature on motherhood and an intersectionality perspective to ground our analysis, comparing and contrasting discourse about these political figures.Findings – The 2008 campaign represented a campaign for good motherhood as much as it represented a campaign for the next president. Discourse on Palin, Clinton, and Obama creates three very different characterizations of mothers: the bad, working mother and failed supermom (Palin), the unfeeling, absent mother (Clinton), and the intensive, stay-at-home mother (Obama). The campaign reified a very narrow, ideological standard for good motherhood and did little to broaden the acceptability of mothers in politics.Value of paper – This article exemplifies the type of intersectional work that can be done in the areas of motherhood and family. Applying an intersectionality perspective in the analysis of media discourse allows us to see exactly how the 2008 campaign became a campaign for good motherhood. Moreover, until we engage in an intersectional analysis of this discourse, we might not see that the reification of good motherhood within campaign discourse is also a reification of hegemonic gender, race, class, age, and family structure locations.
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the ways in which gender is socially constructed through transnational adoption.
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the ways in which gender is socially constructed through transnational adoption.
Feminist methodologies and reflexivity are put into practice. Life histories of women who participate in transnational adoptions are presented.
Life history narratives shed light on how these particular women, through the process of transnational adoption, experience gender differently and in more complex ways. Adoptive mothers’ negotiations (and renegotiations) of their own gender contribute to our understandings of how motherhood (and, thereby, womanhood) is constructed in broader society.
Life histories provide rich, thick descriptions of social life. However, they are limited in terms of reliability and making generalizations about larger populations.
This chapter engages the reader, scholars, students, practitioners, and policy-makers in contemplating the processes of motherhood and womanhood.
The chapter is a building block for future research on this topic and challenges our understandings of “motherhood” and “womanhood.”
This chapter is unique in that I include my own life narrative and story of becoming a mother through transnational adoption. Through reflexivity, the researcher becomes the subject and vice versa. These life history narratives offer insight through their expressions of “everyday knowledge” (Hill Collins, 2000) and bring new dimensions to the study of gender as these women’s experiences are situated within the intersections of the global economy, specific political systems, and individual identities.