This chapter reconstructs the process of becoming and being a Polish mother. Analysis of the narratives of women/mothers made it possible to grasp biographical experiences of motherhood and the processes that shape a mother’s identity.
The theoretical basis for this study is symbolic interactionism, and data were collected using the technique of narrative interviewing. The research conducted within the Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society (ISOTIS) project involved 16 women, differentiated by age, education, number of children, legal marital status and place of residence. The analytical procedure of the narrative-interview method made it possible to distinguish process structures (biographical action schemes, institutional expectation patterns, trajectories of suffering and biographical metamorphoses) through which women’s biographies and motherhood experiences were reconstructed, and presented in the form of five patterns.
The Introduction provides an overview of extant state-of-the-art international biographical research scholarship on mothering. It specifically engages with the book’s principal themes, which both shape and reflect the multidimensionality of mothering in diverse social and cultural contexts, social circumstances and culturally anticipated narratives of idealised motherhoods. It further highlights the complexities of policy-based narratives of mothering and motherhood, which are socially and culturally variable, both in and across time, while underlining contradictions between policy-based understandings of mothering on the one hand and the complexities of women’s everyday lived experiences on the other. Key theoretical and biographical narrative methodological perspectives on mothering are discussed in relation to salient topics – definitions of mothering identities through the prism of biographical research methods – emphasising ethics and the cultural sensitivity of the biographical approach.
What does mothering mean in different cultures and societies? This book extensively applies biographical and narrative research methods to mothering from international perspectives.
This edited collection engages with changing attitudes and approaches to mothering from women’s individual biographical experiences, illuminating how socially anticipated tasks of mothering shaped through interlinking state, media, religious beliefs and broader society are reflected in their identities and individual life choices. Considering trust, rapport, reflexivity and self-care, this collection advances methodological practice in the study of mothers, carers and childless women’s lives.
The chapter is based on a thematic narrative analysis of 25 in-depth biographical interviews conducted with Roma mothers in Czechia in 2018 within the larger scope of the international ISOTIS project (Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society). The focus of this chapter is on construction of the multiple roles and identities that Czech Roma mothers experience while living in highly marginalised contexts with regard to their ethnic-minority and low-income backgrounds. Their life narratives reveal patterns of mothering in their families of origin; how they became mothers (physically, socially and emotionally); what it means to them to be a mother; and how they reflect on their own socialisation and the imposition of their socialisation on the daughters they raise, assuming that they too will become mothers one day. The various forms of mothering experiences intertwined in their biographical stories are sometimes in line with more traditional family role models, but, at other times, represent Roma women’s complicated efforts to become emancipated from a larger family, poverty and social marginalisation. Their narratives present the symptomatic struggle between traditional expectations and the changing social conditions in which these mothers live.
In this chapter, we focus on the marginalised group of mothers of children with Down syndrome. Applying an intersectional feminist sociological lens, we examine how neoliberalism converges with race, class, gender and ableness to shape experiences of mothering in contemporary Australia. To impact readers in a way that traditional academic writing cannot, we draw upon the scholarship of researchers who advocate for departing from traditional academic conventions in their scholarly work and utilise a crystallisation approach. We crystallise academic and creative writing and present a narrative literature review, six case studies, and a provocative conclusion. Through this methodology, we demonstrate that, despite contending with neoliberal expectations of mothering from medical professionals, family, friends and society, the mothers shared their stories with agency, evocative language, and often humour. Hence, we considered it an ethical imperative that we did not reinforce these hectoring discourses and misrepresent mothers’ experiences by sterilising the emotion in their stories to fit the hegemonic and masculine norms of traditional academic research and writing. Rather, by providing an embodied and affective understanding of neoliberal forces, we show that crystallisation is ideal for reaching beyond academia and redressing the social injustices that these mothers experience.
This qualitative phenomenological study was conducted to understand how social-mothering is perceived and experienced by one mother, drawing on her life biography. Using in-person interviews, the chapter explores the concept of social mothering by focusing on the life narrative of one female informal worker (Melodi) in Nairobi, Kenya, and showing how her social-mothering experiences are embedded within broader personal life trajectories and choices. Melodi’s life narrative is considered within its socio-economic, cultural and historical contexts to prioritise unheard voices and fully understand how social mothering is constructed, shifts and is experienced. Living in an informal urban settlement situates Melodi in spaces of contestation whereby the challenges of social mothering are juxtaposed with her own subjective mothering identity. The life history method enables mapping of co-existing and competing frames, revealing the ontological multiplicity of social mothering. Here, African feminist theory offers an avenue for the articulation of multiple perspectives within which to map and explore the relational worlds of social mothering. These findings on the shifting spaces for social mothering are important for the development of African feminist theory given the uncertainties that mothers continue to face.
This Conclusion summarises the main points of the book, drawing on insights from global biographical and narrative research while revealing the complexities of social expectations of mothering and motherhood that prevail in contemporary societies. The Conclusion identifies many ways that this book contributes to existing literature, and, crucially, how it advances conceptual and empirical insights into mothers’ everyday lives, imagined futures and interconnecting past, present and future selves from the bottom-up perspective. The chapter brings the reader ‘full circle’ from the key question posed in the Preface ‘Why a book on modern mothering?,’ to providing future agendas for biographic narrative research. It explores fruitful conceptual and methodological avenues for transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research dialogues.
Lone-parent families are not a homogenous group; rather this family form is varied. Despite the vast array of research into the lives and experiences of lone parents in Ireland, there is a dearth of information on the particular groups that form the lone-parent cohort. This research fills the gaps in existing knowledge in relation to those who are lone parents through separation or divorce. Through utilisation of biographical narrative interviews, this study explores the experiences of 15 Irish mothers with primary school-aged children who have undergone a legal separation and/or divorce, and, using a voice-centred relational method of analysis, identifies the needs of this group to assess how Irish social policy and service provision respond to these needs. Underpinned by a feminist approach, this research amplifies the voices of the mothers by using biographical narrative interviews. These interviews showed that experiences of intimidation, constraint, uncertainties and responsibilities were often evident in stories shared by lone mothers. Significantly, these experiences are linked to differences and inequalities between mothers and fathers, with the consequences of such being more pronounced for mothers who are of a lower socio-economic status.
By viewing mothering as a multifaceted concept that comprises both mundane practice and symbolic meaning, this chapter explores the processes through which the identity of a good mother is shaped among older Iranian Muslim women by hegemonic gender norms, and how these women, in turn, express their agency.
Drawing on 30 biographical interviews with older Muslim women living in Tehran and Karaj, this chapter discusses how these women negotiate and mediate gender power through their bodies, as well as in the specific ways in which they interpret dominant cultural symbolism to construct their gendered biographies and identities. Significantly, this chapter presents the expressions that participants used to define ‘a proper wife’ and a ‘successful mother’ to explore normative gender expectations from the points of view of the participants. This, along with their consideration of what constitutes ‘a good girl’, substantially expands our understanding of femininity and masculinity, and of gender relations between men and women in Iran.
Ideal motherhood, characterised by expectations of intensive, limitless and selfless care, serves to hold women responsible for all that befalls their children, and works to individualise and privatise the work of childbearing and rearing. The individualisation of mothering work, the shortcomings of social and structural supports for that work, and the sanctions on women who fail to meet normative expectations of ideal motherhood are intensified for disabled women.
Our narrative interviews with 44 disabled Canadian women about their pregnancy decisions and mothering experiences illuminate normative notions of what kinds of women can, and perhaps should, be mothers, and highlight the specific challenges disabled mothers face. The women described barriers to becoming and remaining mothers, and were particularly vulnerable to social isolation, abusive partners, and the effects of poverty. They also experienced surveillance and intervention from helping professionals and multiple structural barriers to accommodation. The women’s stories highlight ‘disability embodiment’, the interaction between their corporeal issues and the social, political and economic aspects of disability, which deeply affect disabled women’s mothering.