Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Integrated Motherhood: Beyond Hegemonic Ideologies of Motherhood

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Integrated Motherhood: Beyond Hegemonic Ideologies of Motherhood

Article excerpt

Sociologists have identified a consistent set of hegemonic ideologies that influence women's work and family decisions. These ideologies assert that (a) a mother's primary responsibility is childrearing and a father's is breadwinning (Blair-Loy, 2003; Gerson, 1985; Hays, 1996; Smith, 1993; Uttal, 1996, 1999); (b) mothering should occur in a self-sufficient nuclear family (Hays, 1996; Macdonald, 2011; Smith, 1993); and (c) employment conflicts with motherhood (Blair-Loy, 2003; Damaske, 2011; Gerson, 1985; Hays, 1996; J. Williams, 2000). It is widely recognized that these ideologies are modern creations that emerged in White middleclass families during the Industrial Revolution (Glenn, Chang, & Forcey, 1994; Landry, 2000; J. Williams, 2000) and now occupy a dominant place in American society (Blair-Loy, 2003; Christopher, 2012; Hays, 1996; Segura, 1994). Despite this, the number of employed mothers has increased significantly, no doubt a partial result of the women's rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Mothers today are more likely to work outside the home (Cohany & Sok, 2007).

An expansive body of research has examined why mothers engage in paid employment and how they experience combining employment and raising children. Scholars have also investigated how ideology influences mothers' family and work decisions (Bielby, 1992; Braun, Scott, & Alwin, 1994; Herring & Wilson-Sadberry, 1993; Hochschild & Machung, 1989; Hock, Gnezda, & McBride, 1984) and the meanings they attach to their decisions, particularly when they challenge hegemonic ideals (Hays, 1996; Hochschild, 1997; Hochschild & Machung, 1989; Macdonald, 2011; Uttal, 1996). Scholars have identified how mothers account for their decisions when they are unable or choose not to stay at home with their children. Some scholars present a conflict paradigm of work and family such that motherhood is considered incompatible with employment (Blair-Loy, 2003; Gerson, 1985; Hays, 1996; Smith, 1993; Stone, 2007; J. Williams, 2000). Because of this incompatibility, employed mothers, specifically those who are middle class, often experience conflict and must reframe their decision to work so that it symbolically conforms to these ideologies (Blair-Loy, 2003; Damaske, 2011; Gerson, 1985; Macdonald, 2011; Stone, 2007). Other scholars describe how some middle-class mothers actively reject these hegemonic ideologies and create their own (Christopher, 2012; Garey, 1999; Gerson, 2010; Uttal, 1996, 1999).

This article adds to the existing scholarship by identifying an alternative mothering ideology, which I term integrated mothering, that African American middle- and upper-middle-class employed mothers feel accountable to regarding their family and work decisions. Research primarily examining the experiences of poor and working-class African American women and mothers describes how they reject dominant cultural depictions and understandings of their lives (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2009; Blum & Deussen, 1996; Collins, 2009; Hays, 2003). In general, study participants did not engage with hegemonic ideologies by actively rejecting them or by reframing their decisions to work outside of the home to symbolically conform to them. Participants' accounts suggest that they are influenced by different cultural expectations of motherhood from within their communities. These expectations include the assumption that mothers will work outside the home, be economically self-reliant, and have access to kin and community members to assist them with child care. These mothers did not feel compelled to justify their decisions in order for them to be socially palatable to others. These findings suggest how distinct mothering ideologies may differently influence how mothers experience and make sense of their family and work decisions.

Conceptual Framework

Hegemonic Mothering Ideologies

Scholars have argued that because women feel accountable to hegemonic mothering ideologies, such as the "standard North American family" (Smith, 1993), the "cult of domesticity" (J. …

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