Mothers/Motherhood

STEPHANIE O'DONOHOE

University of Edinburgh Business School, UK

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs176

“Mother” is a fundamentally relational identity: it comes into being with the creation or arrival of a child, who is produced in turn by some form of interaction between a man and a woman and is often raised by parents living together. From the moment a pregnancy is made public, a mother-to-be typically finds herself renegotiating relationships with others – including family, friends, colleagues, health professionals, and even strangers – and is subject to broader societal norms and cultural discourses of motherhood. Indeed, the term “expectant mother” may be misleading, privileging as it does the expectations that mothers have, rather than the expectations to which they are subjected. Thus mothering as an experience is inter-twined with motherhood as an institution or an ideal. As Thomson et al. (2011) observe in the context of the United Kingdom, despite the veneer of equality provided by contemporary discourses of “parenting,” raising children is still seen primarily as a mother's work. Thus, mothering involves agency in both senses of the word – choices have to be made, and made in the interests of a child who is vulnerable and dependent, at least in the early years. This duty of care, combined with concerns about raising children in a risk society, leads to mothers being held morally and socially responsible for virtually every aspect of children's lives ...

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