Motherhood Literature Review

833 Words4 Pages
2.4. Motherhood as a Social Construct In the previous sections of this literature review, I have walked through sociological literature analyzing the importance of motherhood to women’s employment, and the effect of extended parental leave in an international perspective and then in the context of post-socialist Hungary. In the following, final section I turn to feminist theory on motherhood. Although this conceptual body of knowledge is different in nature from the previous literature I have discussed, I believe that they complement each other well, helping to interpret social phenomena otherwise difficult to understand. In her review of research on motherhood in the 1990s, Teresa Arendell (2000, 1193) laments on the lack of integration…show more content…
This biological determinism has been refuted by over 4 decades of feminist scholarship arguing that even though certain biological functions related to motherhood are exclusive to women, an overwhelming portion of what is understood as instinctual and natural to mothers is in fact a social construct. To define this non-biological part of motherhood - coined by Adrienne Rich the “institution of motherhood” (1976, page) - Teresa Arendell seeks to establish a common theme among feminist research and defines mothering as “the social practices of nurturing and caring for dependent children” (2000, 1192). While this definition is gender-neutral, the social reality of mothering is certainly not: mothering activities are mostly carried out by women and have powerful ties with notions of womanhood - as Arendell points out, femininity and motherhood are mutually constructive (1192). contributing to the gender-stratification of society in general (Goodwin and Huppatz 2010,…show more content…
According to Hays, the ideology of intensive motherhood is a socially constructed “gendered model” (Hays 1996: X) which prescribes how mothers should take care of their children. Hays identifies 3 basic requirements together form a standard of good mothering by which mothers assess themselves and others: (i) children should have a primary carer, preferably the mother, or another woman in the time she is away; (ii) appropriate child-rearing is “child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive and financially expensive”; (8) and (iii) referring to Viviana Zelizer’s 1985 article, Hays describes children as “priceless”: their value is morally so high that it is immeasurable. This ideology is so pervasive that according to Hays, working mothers and stay-at-home mothers are equally committed to it. (Hays 1996, page) Although researchers have disagreed on this point, there seems to be general consensus that even if some working women reject intensive mothering ideals, they can never fully evade it. (Dow 2015, Johnston and Swanson 2007) More recently, the practices of “attachment parenting”, a parenting philosophy advocating for the importance of close physical contact and attachment between mother and child through practices such as long-term breastfeeding, co-sleeping and babywearing, have been
Open Document