Sex Roles

, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 447–459

Cognitive Acrobatics in the Construction of Worker–mother Identity

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9267-4

Cite this article as:
Johnston, D.D. & Swanson, D.H. Sex Roles (2007) 57: 447. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9267-4


This study uses dialectical theory to explore the interaction of worker identity (perceived financial need and job/career identity) and intensive mothering expectations in mothers’ identity construction. This study is based on extensive interviews with 98 at-home, part-time employed and full-time employed mothers of one or more pre-school children from the Midwestern United States. The narrative analysis reveals that mothers embrace intensive mothering expectations. Because of these cultural expectations, mothers must modify either societal mothering expectations or worker expectations in order to construct an integrated worker–mother identity. We found that while at-home mothers can embrace intensive mothering expectations, employed mothers engage in cognitive acrobatics to manage the tension between employment and the dominant mothering ideology.


Identity constructionIntensive mothering expectationsDiscursive analysisworker–parent identity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationHope CollegeHollandUSA