Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 415–437 | Cite as

Constructing motherhood on the night shift: “Working mothers” as “stay-at-home moms”

  • Anita Ilta Garey


Based on in-depth interviews with hospital nurses, this article examines the way in which employed women with children use the night shift to support a construction of motherhood which closely resembles that of mothers who are not in the labor force. Interview data reveal that a salient function of night shift work is the reconciliation of some of the structural and conceptual incompatibilities of being “working mothers.” Night-shift nurses construct themselves as “stay-at-home moms” by limiting the public visibility of their labor force participation, by involving their children and themselves in symbolically-invested activities, and by positioning themselves in the culturally-appropriate place and time: at home, during the day. All of these strategies work to highlight their visibility as mothers.

Key words

motherhood shift work nurses working mothers sleep deprivation 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Ilta Garey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Horton Social Science CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurham

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