Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Rethinking Motherhood and Career: Maternal Deconstruction and the M-Power Model

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Rethinking Motherhood and Career: Maternal Deconstruction and the M-Power Model

Article excerpt

What can we learn from reproduction about the process of production? What can we learn from maternal labor about the market labor? What can maternal experience teach us of our professional life?


Current theoretical and practical conceptions refer to the family-work relation as two conflicting dimensions. These perceptions are rooted in the bi-spherial social structure that goes back to the 18th century separation of the "public sphere" from the "private sphere" (Bassin and Kaplan, 1994). The construction of a dichotomous bi-spherial social order establishes the relation between family and work as two separated worlds, inherently conflicting. But not only does it formulate social structure, it also provides the basis for the way people recognize themselves as professionals, shaping the social identities of a "parent" and a "career person" as colliding roles. As such, an employee's family is perceived as foreign to, and conflicting with her or his work. Specifically, the "burden" of child care is considered a distracting factor inhibiting the development of the parent's career. Women who are both, mothers (or primary caregivers) and career women are considered disadvantaged and compromised professionally (Correll, 2007; Williams, 2000)1.

This dichotomous division between the spheres, is also organized--as usually happens under patriarchal law--in hierarchical order. The maternal is framed within the narrow borders of the mother's body as a natural activity, a biological instinct or essence without any social significance. It is reduced to an instinctual, pre-human nourishing aspect of the mother's body, an emotional, personal and material dimension that holds the inferior side of the binaries that lie at the heart of western culture (2) (Derrida, 1976). The maternal body is reduced to a pre-subjective, natural aspect of being and the maternal experience is not considered to entail valuable knowledge that can contribute to social growth or enrich the public sphere. On the contrary, it is regarded as a platform that only its negation can lead to cultural growth (Irigaray, 1985).

Feminist theoretical discourse uncovers the gendered organizational perceptions that draw their validity from this division between the private and the public spheres. The feminist project seeks to expose the roots of gender inequality in the public sphere, to reveal the gendered perception of the ideal/normative employee as one that is based on an image of a man (Williams, 2000) and to challenge the existing concepts of the relation between family and work (Frenkel, 2008).

Recently, a new feminist theoretical approach has been emerging; a concept that is called--the Dual Agenda (Rapoport, 2002). This radical perception of personal-professional integration (3) challenges common views of the spherial division as separated and inherently conflicting. The Dual Agenda notion establishes a different perspective for the relation between the two spheres and presents an alternative approach that creates parental work and career work as integrative and synergistic. Feminist methodologies that follow the Dual Agenda concept argue that supporting the "personal" needs of the employee and his/her family also leads to business and financial benefits and is not only a social advantage (Rapoport, 2002, Perlow, 2012). They emphasize the fact that raising gender fairness and equity within a company results in increasing its financial effectiveness.

This article's theoretical prism falls within this framework, which strives to redefine the relation between the home and the work-place. But contrary to the Dual Agenda concept that attempts to promote gender equity within organizational practices and social conceptions, we focus on the parental and personal-life experience--specifically the maternal--and posit that it is a valuable resource for managerial and work development.

In what follows, we will introduce an innovative method--"the M-Power model", within which maternal experience becomes an important and valuable component of professional growth. …

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