Synopses & Reviews
Martha McMahon asked a sample of full-time employed mothers about their experiences of becoming and being mothers. Drawing on symbolic interaction to analyze the cultural associations between motherhood, morality, and the value of children, the author comes to insightful and politically relevant conclusions. The different circumstances by which women in her study became pregnant and came to have children, the author explains, had to do not simply with the transformation of personal identities but with the reproduction of inequality through the production of babies.
The book illuminates the paradoxical character of motherhood: as both a socially determined, potentially oppressive role and one that also provides profound personal meaning that can expand the boundaries of women's lives. The author illustrates how an informed understanding of the impact of motherhood on women's identities provides an essential framework for a critique of dominant models of human relationships.
"A wonderful example of qualitative research and inquiries into the meaning of motherhood among 59 Canadian women....The attraction of this well-written book is twofold: First, it elucidates the diverse experience of motherhood...and describes authentically the richness and the depths of such experiences....Secondly, it points out that social class is a major contributing factor that accounts for differences in that spiritual transformation...." --Renate Forssmann-Falck, M.D., in News for Women in Psychiatry
"This is a book to be read for its contribution to sociological theories of gender and family. Recommended for graduate students and professionals." --K.M. McKinley, Cabrini College in Choice
"An unusually insightful look at the processes by which women become mothers and the meaning of motherhood to them. The subjective experience of motherhood did not involve a denial of the self, in spite of stereotypes, but offered opportunities to claim personal growth and development.' The mothers saw themselves as morally enhanced persons through this process of adult re-socialization. McMahon concludes importantly that the women were engendered through connectedness to their children, with fascinating class differences in how their identity as women is achieved from becoming and being mothers. This book is an invaluable addition to feminism, and to gender and family college courses. It will become major reading for women in English-speaking countries, and I do not doubt that it will be translated into other languages." --Helena Znaniecka Lopata, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Loyola University of Chicago
"Will be a path-breaking book. It is filled with insights about women's changes in outlook and identity that occur through the processes of mothering. And it offers insights pursued through by working and middle class mothers, partnered and alone mothers. Happily, McMahon's work is also a good read, moving and perceptive in its evocations of women's lives as mothers. It is also brilliant and original in its theoretical contribution to our understanding of such concepts as commitment, affiliation, responsibility and personal growth. Don't miss it." --Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
" One of the strengths of this book is the way in which the data are used to display the ways in which the experiences of motherhood can be understood as constitutive of gender rather than as ans expression of pre-maternal gendered identities. The author's extensive discussion of her methodological approach makes this book valuable for students thinking about qualitative design. ...provides detailed description and analysis which goes well beyond socialization and the internalization of roles. The work raises questions, first, concerning the theorizing of identity and offers a sound approach to notions of multiple identity negotiation, particularly in relation to class and to gender. Second, the book provides a rich source of empirical material with which to analyze feminist arguments regarding more general issues of social bonding and responsibility, and the relationship between mothering and connectedness." --Alexandra Howson, Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh
"Makes the significant argument that mothering is not the predetermined result of women's socialization to prescribed roles but is rather a process of resocialization that follows from the experience and practices of mothering....A very interesting and highly readable account, peppered with insightful theoretical analyses."--Signs Signs
"McMahon's account is ethnographically rich. She supports her arguments with abundant examples from women's everyday lives....Her study locates mothers' experiences within the often-discounted larger context in which women live, and in doing so it reveals the cultural, social, and political bases and implications of motherhood. As such, it is essential reading for those who want to understand how mothers, children, and society shape one another as they do."--Gender and Society Gender and Society
"I highly recommend this excellent book. McMahon's engaging interviews as well as her analysis will be of value both to the general reader interested in the costs and rewards of motherhood and to the specialist in the areas of gender and family. In addition, the introduction and the methodological chapter--intriguing accounts of the ways the research process changes theoretical questions and the advantages of in-depth interviewing for answering such questions--will be a terrific addition to courses on qualitative research."--Contemporary Sociology Contemporary Sociology
"Recommended for graduate students and professionals."--Choice Choice
How does having children change the ways women think about themselves? What is the effect of motherhood on the gender identity of women? Is motherhood an engendering, as well as a gendered, experience? To answer such provocative questions, Martha McMahon asked a sample of full-time employed mothers of preschoolers to describe their experiences of pregnancy, motherhood, and the effects of these events on their self-concepts. The resulting in-depth interviews, examined in this revealing new book, explore paths to motherhood that these women followed, as well as their experiences after giving birth.
Using symbolic interaction as an analytical tool, the author comes to insightful, and politically relevant, conclusions. Unlike many available texts on motherhood, this volume also provides pertinent data on how class, marital status, and work shape the ways in which women create identities for themselves as mothers.
The book illuminates the paradoxical character of motherhood--as both a socially determined, potentially oppressive role and one that also provides profound personal meaning that can expand the boundaries of women's lives. The author illustrates how an informed understanding of the impact of motherhood on women's identities provides an essential framework for a more relevant critique of dominant models of human relationships.
Providing a vivid look, based on qualitative research, at this central experience of many women's lives, Engendering Motherhood is invaluable reading for family sociologists, those interested in gender studies, and anyone concerned with the rewards and costs of motherhood. The book serves as a text for courses in family sociology, sociology of gender, gender studies, and feminist theory, and for sociology courses focusing on the use of qualitative methodology.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 301-314) and index.
About the Author
Martha McMahon received her undergraduate degree in sociology and economics from University College Dublin, Ireland, and her doctorate from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. She is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where she teaches in the areas of gender, women and the environment, and qualitative methodology. She has also worked in a variety of government-sponsored programs in Canada for immigrant women, sole-support mothers, and women on social assistance.