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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This book is based on the research I did for my Ph.D. in sociology. Although qualitative research encourages the researcher to get close to the lived experience of those she studies, for a long time I did not really question the assumption that the story I was writing was about others and not also about me. This assumption of separateness of researcher and participants is reflected even in conventions of writing. For example, the copy editor for this book struggled to get me to use the word "the" with reference to the women in this study. But I felt it to be objectifying, as falsely distancing, and author-itative to be referring repeatedly to "the" women. Yet in not using the definite article I risked slipping into another objectifying tendency of research reports, that of communicating the impression of speaking about a whole category of people, for or about all mothers. This book is a story based on what participants in the study told me about their lives; it is a story grounded in my personal and sociological engagement of these women's accounts.

Writing about other women's experiences of motherhood drew me into reflecting on my own biography and the implications of what participants told me about motherhood for my own life as a childless woman. In some ways, my thinking about childlessness, maternal bonds, and of not becoming a mother myself has the character of a counter story to the story I wrote of the participants' experience of motherhood. Before I started the research I had not realized the ways . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.