Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

An Analysis of the Motherhood Concept in Employed Women in South Turkey

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

An Analysis of the Motherhood Concept in Employed Women in South Turkey

Article excerpt

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to determine women's perceptions of motherhood. We carried out this study with 10 midwives and 10 teachers. Two categories - satisfactions and difficulties - and four main themes became apparent. Satisfactions were evident in statements where mothers wrote expressions such as, "beautiful and a hard-to-explain feeling" and "full of rewards". Their difficulties were evident in their description of motherhood as "the most difficult job" and "strain in motherhood role". Important findings were the differences in the statements by midwives and teachers about the roles of mothers, despite their similar definitions of motherhood. Mothers should support their motherhood needs in a number of ways as suggested in the discussion.

Keywords: employed women, midwives, motherhood, teachers.

Motherhood is a societal institution that is conceptualized as "essential" and "natural". Its importance is emphasized by social mores across cultures (Bobak, Jensen, & Zalar, 1989; Sanford & Donovan, 1997). Its meaning goes beyond the biological processes of reproduction. Like other institutions, it has powerful symbolic meanings and encompasses customs, traditions, beliefs, attitudes, morals, rules, laws and a host of other rational and irrational norms which deal with the care and rearing of children. As feministic perspectives and politics have developed, the institution of motherhood has undergone a process of critique, correction and transformation of the way that mothers are viewed within the feminist context. The current approach of feminists and many other institutions to motherhood and women reflects this very issue (Bialeschki & Michener, 1994; Liamputtong, 2001; Sumer, 1998).

Simone de Beauvoir (1993) argued that every biological process in the female body is a "trial". To her, pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding, all undermine women's health and put their lives at risk. Feminist writer, Nancy Chodorow (1978), states that biology and instinct do not provide adequate explanation for how women come to mother, but she also believes that girls and boys are thought to have appropriate behavior and feelings for parenting. She describes the "reproduction of mothering" as a built-in facet of girls' and women's personalities. Because girls are mothered by women, they see their mothers as role models and - in turn - desire to mother. In this direction, women have the heavy responsibility of procreation and rearing a generation. Particularly in patriarchal societies, childbearing is the central female work activity and women gain status only when they become mothers (Moghadam, 2004). Feminists argue that there is a tendency to equate a woman with her family, while men are allowed a separate and individualized status in these societies. Therefore, early feminist writers and radical feminists saw motherhood as a threat to a woman's identity (Liamputtong, 2001). Many countries still want to protect motherhood as intended by the original United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights in 1948: "motherhood (is) entitled to special protection" (Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948,1998). But Hafen (2001) stated that today's UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) criticizes these protections as paternalistic, promoting a supposedly outdated concept of motherhood that discourages women from seeking greater fulfillment in paid work.

Turkey's movements toward modernity have brought both the emancipation of women and the claim that Western values were actually Turkish - but they have been different from modernization in other developing countries. In this modernism movement from Islamic tradition, as practiced by the Ottomans to the Turkish Republic, women are crucial as a symbol of modernism (Kandiyoti, 1987; Muftuler-Bac, 1999). The new regime replaced the Islamic civil code - which included formal inequalities between men and women in marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody of children - with a secular code adopted from the Swiss code. …

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