Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 25–53 | Cite as

Manufacturing Motherhood: The Shadow Work of Nannies and Au Pairs

  • Cameron L. Macdonald


This paper explores how working mothers and paid child care providers interpret the division of mothering labor in the context of in-home care. The nannies, au pairs, and working mothers interviewed for this study make sense of their shared “mother-work” in the context of a dominant belief system that values “intensive mothering.” Consequently, in addition to negotiating the allocation of mothering tasks, they must also negotiate the meanings assigned to these tasks: specifically, they manufacture an image of shared mothering that contradicts their day-to-day practice.

motherhood child care work and family 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abel, E. and Nelson, M. 1990. Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women's Lives. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ammott, T. and Matthei, J. 1996. Race, Gender, and Work: A Multi-cultural Economic History of Women in the United States. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  3. Belsky, J. 1990. “Parental and Nonparental Child Care and Children's Socioemotional Development: A Decade in Review.” Journal of Marriage and the Family52 (November): 885-903.Google Scholar
  4. Bernard, J. 1981. “The Good Provider Role: Its Rise and Fall” American Psychologist36:1, pp. 1-12.Google Scholar
  5. Burawoy, M. 1979. Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process Under Monopoly Capitalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Colen, S. 1995. “'Like a Mother to Them': Stratified Reproduction and West Indian Childcare Workers and Employers in New York.” In Ginsburg and Rapp, eds., Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 78-102Google Scholar
  7. ____. 1989. Just a Little Respect: West Indian Domestic Workers in New York City. In Chaney and Castro eds. Muchachas No More: Household Workers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Daniels, A. K. 1987. “Invisible Work.” Social Problems. 34:403-15.Google Scholar
  9. DeVault, M. 1991. Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dill, B. T. 1988. “'Making Your Job Good Yourself': Domestic Service and the Construction of Personal Dignity.” In Bookman and Morgen, eds. Women and the Politics of Empowerment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Ehrenreich, B. and English, D. 1978. For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  12. Enarson, E. 1990. “Experts and Caregivers: Perspectives on Underground Day Care.” In Abel and Nelson, eds. Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women's Lives. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fraiberg, S. 1977. Every Child's Birthright: In Defense of Mothering. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  14. Garey, A. I. 1995. “Constructing Motherhood on the Night Shift: ‘Working Mothers’ as ‘stay at Home Moms’” Qualitative Sociology18:4, pp. 415-437.Google Scholar
  15. Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  16. Glenn, E. N. 1986. Issei, Nisei, War Bride: Three Generations of Japanese American Women in Domestic Service. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ____. 1994. “Social Constructions of Mothering: A Thematic Overview,” in Glenn, E. Chang, G. and Forcey, R. eds. Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Goffman, E. 1976. “Gender Display.” Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication3:69-77.Google Scholar
  19. Green, H. 1983. The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  20. Hareven, T. 1982. Family Time and Industrial Time. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hays, S. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hertz, R. 1991. “Dual-Career Couples and the American Dream: Self-sufficiency and Achievement.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 22:2, 247-263.Google Scholar
  23. ____. 1986. More Equal Than Others: Women and Men in Dual-Career Marriages. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hochschild, A. 1997. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  25. ____. 1989. The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at HomeNew York: Viking Penguin.Google Scholar
  26. ____. 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. ____. 1975. “Inside the Clockwork of Male Careers.” In Howe, ed., Women and the Power to Change. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 47-80.Google Scholar
  28. Hofferth, S. 1989. Private Matters: American Attitudes Toward Childbearing and Infant Nurture in the Urban North 1800–1860. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  29. Illich, I. 1981. Shadow Work. Boston, MA: M. Boyars.Google Scholar
  30. Joffe, C. 1977. Friendly Intruders: Child Care Professionals and Family Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  31. Katz Rothman, B. 1989. Recreating Motherhood: Ideology and Technology in a Patriarchal Society. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  32. Kessler-Harris, A. 1982. Out to Work. A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ladd-Taylor, M. 1994. Mother-work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890–1930. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  34. Macdonald, C. L. 1996. “Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Parisand Invisible Work.” In Macdonald and Sirianni, eds. Working in the Service Society. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Margolis, M. 1984. Mothers and Such: Views of American Women and Why They Changed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Meltz, B. 1991. “When Jealousy Strikes the Working Parent.” Boston GlobeMarch 15: 74.Google Scholar
  37. Murray, S. 1995. “Child Care Work: The Lived Experience.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz.Google Scholar
  38. Nelson, M. K. 1990. Negotiated Care: The Experiences of Family Day Care Providers. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Nippert-Eng, C. 1995. Home and Work: Negotiating Boundaries through Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Oakley, A. 1974, Woman's Work: The Housewife, Past and Present. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  41. Phillips, D., Howes, C. and Whitebook, M. 1991. “Child Care as an Adult Work Environment.” Journal of Social Issues47:2, pp. 49-70.Google Scholar
  42. Reissman, K. 1987. “When Gender is not Enough: Women Interviewing Women.” Gender and Society1:2 (June), pp. 172-207.Google Scholar
  43. Roberts, D. forthcoming. “Spiritual and Menial Housework,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.Google Scholar
  44. Rollins, J. 1985. Between Women: Domestics and Their Employers. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Romero, M. 1992. Maid in the U.S.A.New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  46. Rutman, D. “Child Care as Women's Work: Workers' Experiences of Powerfulness and Powerlessness.” Gender and Society10: 629-649.Google Scholar
  47. Schwartz, F. 1989. “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.” Harvard Business Review. (January–February): pp. 65-76.Google Scholar
  48. Saraceno, C. 1984. “Shifts in Public and Private Boundaries: Women as Mothers and Service Workers in Italian Day Care.” Feminist Studies10:1 (Spring): pp. 7-29.Google Scholar
  49. Silbaugh, K. 1996. “Turning Labor into Love: Housework and the Law.” Northwestern University Law Review91:1, pp. 1-86.Google Scholar
  50. Thurer, S. 1994. The Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  51. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1996. Statistical Abstract of the United States.Google Scholar
  52. Uttal, L. 1996. “Custodial Care, Surrogate Care, and Coordinated Care, and Coordinated Care: Employed Mothers and the Meaning of Child Care.” Gender and Society10:3, pp. 291-311.Google Scholar
  53. West, C. and Zimmerman, D. 1987. “Doing Gender” Gender and Society1:2, pp. 125-151.Google Scholar
  54. Wrigley, J. 1995. Other People's Children. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cameron L. Macdonald
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Connecticut

Personalised recommendations