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Work, Family, and Accounts of Mothers’ Lives Using Discourse to Navigate Intensive Mothering Ideals

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Abstract

Despite the dramatic increase in women’s employment since the 1970s, mothers’ decisions about work remain closely scrutinized. The intensive mothering ethos in which “good” mothers are highly involved in the minutiae of their children’s lives, continues to be the prevailing parenting paradigm in the United States. This article asks: How do women use discourse to navigate the demands of intensive motherhood? First, this article reviews literature on ideologies of intensive mothering. The article then considers research on how accounts are used to navigate the moral dilemmas surrounding women’s work and motherhood. This article provides us with a better understanding of how traditional gender divides remain culturally relevant, how people use discourse to expand cultural schemas to fit their own social location, and how the process of expanding the framework of a schema through this negotiation process can allow traditional gender schemas to remain salient even while different actions are incorporated.

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