Sex Roles

, Volume 54, Issue 7–8, pp 509–519 | Cite as

Constructing the “Good Mother”: The Experience of Mothering Ideologies by Work Status

  • Deirdre D. JohnstonEmail author
  • Debra H. Swanson
Original Paper


The purpose of this study was to explore how mothers construct their worker–parent identity within a cultural context of competing mothering ideologies. We used narrative data from interviews with 95 married mothers with at least 1 child under the age of 5 to compare the construction of intensive mothering expectations by middle-class full-time employed mothers, part-time employed mothers, and at-home mothers. Although previous research has shown that mothers alter work status to live up to intensive mothering expectations, our results show that mothers also alter their construction of intensive mothering expectations to reconcile these demands with their work status choices. The results also suggest that mothers with different employment decisions differ in their construction of Y. Elvin-Nowak and H. Thomsson's (2001) 3 discursive positions—accessibility, happy mother/happy child, and separation of work and home.


Motherhood Work and family Ideology and identity 



This research was funded by grants from the Hope College Frost Center for Social Science Research and the Ruth M. Peale faculty development fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationHope CollegeHollandUSA
  2. 2.Hope CollegeHollandUSA

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