Sex Roles

, Volume 51, Issue 9–10, pp 497–509 | Cite as

Moms Hating Moms: The Internalization of Mother War Rhetoric

  • Deirdre D. Johnston
  • Debra H. Swanson


Work status and mothering are culturally constructed as rigid binaries. The purpose of this study was to explore the effect on mothers of these polarized characterizations of motherhood and to assess the social support mothers perceive they receive for their mother identity. This study, based on interview data collected from 98 married mothers of preschool children, demonstrated that Mother War rhetoric is most extensively internalized by at-home mothers. The majority of mothers perceived a lack of cultural support for their mother role, though the impact of cultural Mother War rhetoric was buffered or exacerbated by mothers' social support systems. The lack of adequate support from other mothers, spouses, parents, and in-laws led mothers to binary constructions of worker–mother identity. This, in turn, led mothers to seek support within shared contexts, which further separated at-home and employed mother from each other and separated mothers from the support of their parents.

social support mothering maternal work status 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deirdre D. Johnston
    • 1
  • Debra H. Swanson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of CommunicationHope CollegeHolland
  2. 2.Department of SociologyHope CollegeHolland

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