Playing with Motherhood: The Politics of Leisure and the Transition to Motherhood in Montreal and Toronto

By Paterson, Stephanie; Trussell, Dawn et al. | Canadian Review of Social Policy, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

Playing with Motherhood: The Politics of Leisure and the Transition to Motherhood in Montreal and Toronto


Paterson, Stephanie, Trussell, Dawn, Hebblethwaite, Shannon, Evans, Meredith, Xing, Trisha, Canadian Review of Social Policy


Introduction

The role of the mother in political economies is well documented. Moreover, the ways in which motherhood is constituted - through its discursive and material effects - within policy assemblages has long been explored within the social sciences.1 In addition, feminist activism in Canada has focused on myriad policy areas, such as reproductive rights (e.g., Brodie et al., 1992), recognition of unpaid labour (e.g, Luxton and Vosko, 1998) and employment rights (e.g., Pulkingham and Van der Gaag, 2004), as well as issues that are not obviously gendered, including economic policy and taxation (e.g., Bakker, 1998, 2009), basic income (Young, 2009), among many others. The impact of this activism, although uneven across groups of women, has been instrumental in shaping policy responses concerning for example, abortion, Canada Pension Plan reform, maternity leave legislation and childcare.

These policy responses have largely focused on the reconciliation of work and family life, with the goal of enabling (most often) mothers to move in and out of the labour market with minimum penalty (e.g., Vosko, 2009). As noted by many, however, these work-life balance policies tend to do little to trouble the gendered division of labour and potentially exacerbate inequality (e.g., Tremblay, 2009; see also Stratigaki, 2004; Hobson, 2013). In response, some scholars have advocated for policies that challenge the unequal distribution of work by encouraging fathers to take on a larger share of care work (e.g., Kershaw, 2008). These innovative approaches to feminist policy and politics, in conjunction with those interrogating other axes of difference, including class, race (Arat Koc, 2012), and sexuality and gender identity (Smith, 2007), are essential to transforming social relations.

Implicit in these discussions is the role of policy in facilitating another important life domain - mother's leisure engagement. Although leisure is acknowledged by the United Nations as a human right and is considered a key pillar in at least two major social justice frameworks, including Fraser's (1997) universal caregiver model and Nussbaum's (2001) capabilities theory , it remains poorly understood as a policy field. Despite acknowledging that access to and attitudes toward leisure are shaped by social location as much as by time stress (e.g., Hantrais 1986), the leisure policy field remains largely unchartered. To be sure, there are pockets of research on various dimensions of leisure policy, such as sport (e.g., Houlihan 1991; Green 2007), culture (e.g., Andrew et al 2005), and tourism (e.g., Veal 2002). Yet little work has focused on the relationship between leisure and politics, particularly regarding what role the state can or, indeed, should play in facilitating leisure (for important exceptions, see Henry 1993; Kay 2000; Light and Groves 1977; Hantrais 1986; Akgunduz and Plantenga 2013). This is a significant oversight, especially considering the potential for leisure with respect to social inclusion, gender equality, and wellbeing, not to mention, health, crime reduction, and community development (Green 2007; see also Dawson 2010; Coalter 1998).

Our intention in this paper is to speak to these gaps through the lens of the transition to motherhood. Although difficult to define precisely, the transition to motherhood refers to a subjective process that usually begins when women start thinking about having a child to the time the child is born/adopted and beyond. It is at this point that women experience significant changes in their relationships with the state, their social and familial networks, and their employers. Not only is this the point at which relationships become considerably more 'gendered' with respect to the distribution of care work, resulting in considerable time stress for women (Lindsay, 2008; Fox 2001, 2009), but it is also the point at which women's identities and subjectivities are significantly altered (e. …

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