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Expectations and Realities: Motherhood and the Female ‘Choice’ Biography

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Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life book series (PSFL)

Abstract

Becoming a mother can be seen as a profound moment of personal change that ties women to the past, the future and each other. Yet what it means to be a mother is shape-shifting in line with women’s increased participation in work and education. The general trend is towards later motherhood, delaying the birth of a first child until education is completed and a career is well established. Emotional stability, financial security and the ‘right’ relationship are expected to fall in line with this life trajectory, making birth the apex of achievement for grown-up girls living the success story narrative of contemporary times. Yet for some young women first pregnancy comes early. Marked by disaffection from education, lack of opportunity and poor socio-economic circumstances, young motherhood may be the first act of adulthood rather than the highly prized goal of deferred gratification. Could it be that motherhood is becoming the site of a new social division between women?

Keywords

  • Family Life
  • Female Employment
  • Maternity Leave
  • Young Mother
  • Social Division

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Many, probably most, women feel that their range of choices is greater than that of their mothers with regard to work, marriage and reproduction. Yet […] in the post-war world an increasing gap has opened up between women in terms of opportunity and autonomy. One of the most significant differences of income and expectation in late twentieth-century society must be that between the teenage unmarried mother, unable to escape from dependence on state benefits, and the professional woman in her late thirties, married to another professional, having her first child and able to pay for a nanny.

(Lewis 1992: 10)

This chapter draws on Chapter 6 of Making Modern Mothers by R. Thomson, M. J. Kehily, L. Hadfield and S. Sharpe © (2011) reproduced by permission of The Policy Press. The chapter uses ‘we’ in keeping with the original text of the book, however it is the work of the author.

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© 2014 Rachel Thomson

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Thomson, R. (2014). Expectations and Realities: Motherhood and the Female ‘Choice’ Biography. In: Holland, J., Edwards, R. (eds) Understanding Families Over Time. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137285089_6

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