Motherhood and Women’s Lives

  • Paula Nicolson


Motherhood is a central aspect of most women’s lives worldwide. For example, in 1994 there were 6.7 million women with children under 16 in the UK: that is, 29 per cent of all women (Church and Sommerfield, 1995). However, the availability of acceptable methods of contraception have made it easier for women to take control of their own fertility. In 1992 for the first time, women in their early thirties were more likely to give birth than women in their early twenties, and the number of women in their forties having babies is also increasing. Although there is an increase in the number of women who do not become mothers, it remains the case that most women do have children, although they have fewer than women in previous generations (Church and Sommerfield, 1995).


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Further reading

  1. Paula Nicolson and Jane Ussher, The Psychology of Women’s Health and Health Care (London, Macmillan, 1992). This volume, with essays by feminist psychologists, focuses specifically upon the ways in which mainstream psychology seeks to pathologise women’s health and health care, particularly in relation to sexuality and reproduction. It includes chapters on infertility, pregnancy, abortion and health-care provision in relation to childbirth and early motherhood. It also explores the ways in which traditional psychological images of femininity equate with expectations of women’s mothering.Google Scholar
  2. Diane Richardson, Women, Motherhood and Childrearing (London, Macmillan, 1993). This provides a lucid account of all aspects of mothering from a feminist perspective, drawing upon sociological, historical and psychological ideas. It identifies the complex and often contradictory emotions surrounding the experience of mothering. It is also useful in clarifying the different ways in which feminists have conceptualised motherhood and the changes that the women’s movement has brought about in women’s lives.Google Scholar
  3. Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva (ed.) Good Enough Mothering? Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood (London, Routledge, 1996). This edited collection provides accounts of historical patterns of mothering and ideologies of the family, cross-national comparisons of policies and experiences of lone mothers in developed and developing countries. It analyses recent social policies and legislative changes in family law, the Child Support Act and discourses about the creation of an underclass in Britain and the United States.Google Scholar
  4. Ann Phoenix, Anne Woollett and Eva Lloyd (eds), Motherhood: Meanings, Practices and Ideologies (London, Sage, 1991).This collection of essays focuses on particular aspects of mothering practice, concentrating upon the ways in which motherhood is socially constructed and how that construction affects the ways in which women become mothers. Chapter topics include an analysis of childcare manuals, and the messages that those convey, as well as exploring infertility, the experience of teenage motherhood and becoming a mother later in life. The influence of developmental psychology on the expectations about motherhood practice is also discussed.Google Scholar
  5. Rozsika Parker’s Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence (London, Virago, 1995) takes a feminist psychoanalytic view of maternal ambivalence. She uses interviews from her clinical work with mothers to look at the joy, pain and guilt associated with mothering. She challenges the traditional psychoanalytic view that mothers are to ‘blame’ for all a child and adults’ ills, and shows how society springs an emotional trap through juxtaposing ideas about femininity, women’s roles and childcare.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paula Nicolson 1997

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  • Paula Nicolson

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