, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 25-53
Date: 14 Mar 2006

Motherhood and “Moral Career”: Discourses of Good Motherhood Among Southeast Asian Immigrant Women in Australia

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In this paper, I examine the lived experience of motherhood among Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese immigrant women in Australia. The women in this study felt a profound change through the process of becoming a mother; they experience the “transformation of self.” The results reveal several discourses of good motherhood. Becoming a mother was experienced as a moral transformation of self and women were urged to perform their moral career. The representation of mothers as the “keepers of morality” is prominent. Women's moral career is influenced by an ethic of care and responsibility for others, particularly their children. The paradoxical discourse of motherhood is profound in the women's narratives of their lived experiences of motherhood. It is clear that motherhood is not an easy task. When this is combined with difficulties resulting from migration, motherhood becomes double burdens. Lack of sufficient English, financial difficulties and support network in a homeland make the task of good motherhood difficult to achieve. Social and health care services need to take women's experiences into account if sensitive care for immigrant women is to be achieved.