The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood

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Yale University Press, Jan 1, 1996 - Social Science - 252 pages
Working mothers today confront not only conflicting demands on their time and energy but also conflicting ideas about how they are to behave: they must be nurturing and unselfish while engaged in child rearing but competitive and ambitious at work. As more and more women enter the workplace, it would seem reasonable for society to make mothering a simpler and more efficient task. Instead, Sharon Hays points out in this original and provocative book, an ideology of "intensive mothering" has developed that only exacerbates the tensions working mothers face.

Drawing on ideas about mothering since the Middle Ages, on contemporary childrearing manuals, and on in-depth interviews with mothers from a range of social classes, Hays traces the evolution of the ideology of intensive mothering--an ideology that holds the individual mother primarily responsible for child rearing and dictates that the process is to be child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive, and financially expensive. Hays argues that these ideas about appropriate mothering stem from a fundamental ambivalence about a system based solely on the competitive pursuit of individual interests. In attempting to deal with our deep uneasiness about self-interest, we have imposed unrealistic and unremunerated obligations and commitments on mothering, making it into an opposing force, a primary field on which this cultural ambivalence is played out.

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A lucid, probing examination of our culture's contradictory and troubled relationship to motherhood—and how it affects mothers. Hays (Sociology and Women's Studies/Univ. of Virginia) interviewed 38 ... Read full review

The cultural contradictions of motherhood

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

With more than half of all American mothers working outside the home, the conflicts of time management and behavior in the differing environments of home and workplace are important contemporary ... Read full review


The Historical Construction
Contemporary Advice
The Social Bases of Variations in Mothering
Womens Work on Behalf of
Contradictions of Motherhood
Intensive Mothering

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Page 238 - In Selected Studies in Marriage and the Family, edited by Robert F. Winch and Louis Wolf Goodman. 3d ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Winch, Robert F., and Rae Lesser Blumberg. 1968. "Societal complexity and familial organization.

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