Engendering Motherhood: Identity and Self-Transformation in Women's Lives


How does having children change the ways women think about themselves? What is the effect of motherhood on the gender identity of women? Is motherhood an engendering, as well as a gendered, experience? To answer such provocative questions, Martha McMahon asked a sample of full-time employed mothers of preschoolers to describe their experiences of pregnancy, motherhood, and the effects of these events on their self-concepts. The resulting in-depth interviews, examined in this revealing new book, explore paths to motherhood that these women followed, as well as their experiences after giving birth. Using symbolic interaction as an analytical tool, the author comes to insightful, and politically relevant, conclusions. Unlike many available texts on motherhood, this volume also provides pertinent data on how class, marital status, and work shape the ways in which women create identities for themselves as mothers. The book illuminates the paradoxical character of motherhood--as both a socially determined, potentially oppressive role and one that also provides profound personal meaning that can expand the boundaries of women's lives. The author illustrates how an informed understanding of the impact of motherhood on women's identities provides an essential framework for a more relevant critique of dominant models of human relationships. Providing a vivid look, based on qualitative research, at this central experience of many women's lives, Engendering Motherhood is invaluable reading for family sociologists, those interested in gender studies, and anyone concerned with the rewards and costs of motherhood. The book serves as a text for courses in family sociology, sociology of gender, gender studies, and feminist theory, and for sociology courses focusing on the use of qualitative methodology.

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