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Engendering Motherhood: Identity and Self-Transformation in Women's Lives [Hardcover]

by Martha McMahon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)


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Book Description

August 18, 1995 1572300027 978-1572300026 0
How does having children change the ways women think about themselves? What is the effect of motherhood on the gender identity of women? Is motherhood an engendering, as well as a gendered, experience? To answer such provocative questions, Martha McMahon asked a sample of full-time employed mothers of preschoolers to describe their experiences of pregnancy, motherhood, and the effects of these events on their self-concepts. The resulting in-depth interviews, examined in this revealing new book, explore paths to motherhood that these women followed, as well as their experiences after giving birth.

Using symbolic interaction as an analytical tool, the author comes to insightful, and politically relevant, conclusions. Unlike many available texts on motherhood, this volume also provides pertinent data on how class, marital status, and work shape the ways in which women create identities for themselves as mothers.

The book illuminates the paradoxical character of motherhood--as both a socially determined, potentially oppressive role and one that also provides profound personal meaning that can expand the boundaries of women's lives. The author illustrates how an informed understanding of the impact of motherhood on women's identities provides an essential framework for a more relevant critique of dominant models of human relationships.

Providing a vivid look, based on qualitative research, at this central experience of many women's lives, Engendering Motherhood is invaluable reading for family sociologists, those interested in gender studies, and anyone concerned with the rewards and costs of motherhood. The book serves as a text for courses in family sociology, sociology of gender, gender studies, and feminist theory, and for sociology courses focusing on the use of qualitative methodology.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A wonderful example of qualitative research and inquiries into the meaning of motherhood among 59 Canadian women....The attraction of this well-written book is twofold: First, it elucidates the diverse experience of motherhood...and describes authentically the richness and the depths of such experiences....Secondly, it points out that social class is a major contributing factor that accounts for differences in that spiritual transformation...." --Renate Forssmann-Falck, M.D., in News for Women in Psychiatry

"This is a book to be read for its contribution to sociological theories of gender and family. Recommended for graduate students and professionals." --K.M. McKinley, Cabrini College in Choice

"An unusually insightful look at the processes by which women become mothers and the meaning of motherhood to them. The subjective experience of motherhood did not involve a denial of the self, in spite of stereotypes, but offered opportunities to claim personal growth and development.' The mothers saw themselves as morally enhanced persons through this process of adult re-socialization. McMahon concludes importantly that the women were engendered through connectedness to their children, with fascinating class differences in how their identity as women is achieved from becoming and being mothers. This book is an invaluable addition to feminism, and to gender and family college courses. It will become major reading for women in English-speaking countries, and I do not doubt that it will be translated into other languages." --Helena Znaniecka Lopata, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Loyola University of Chicago

"Will be a path-breaking book. It is filled with insights about women's changes in outlook and identity that occur through the processes of mothering. And it offers insights pursued through by working and middle class mothers, partnered and alone mothers. Happily, McMahon's work is also a good read, moving and perceptive in its evocations of women's lives as mothers. It is also brilliant and original in its theoretical contribution to our understanding of such concepts as commitment, affiliation, responsibility and personal growth. Don't miss it." --Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

" One of the strengths of this book is the way in which the data are used to display the ways in which the experiences of motherhood can be understood as constitutive of gender rather than as ans expression of pre-maternal gendered identities. The author's extensive discussion of her methodological approach makes this book valuable for students thinking about qualitative design. ...provides detailed description and analysis which goes well beyond socialization and the internalization of roles. The work raises questions, first, concerning the theorizing of identity and offers a sound approach to notions of multiple identity negotiation, particularly in relation to class and to gender. Second, the book provides a rich source of empirical material with which to analyze feminist arguments regarding more general issues of social bonding and responsibility, and the relationship between mothering and connectedness." --Alexandra Howson, Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh


"Makes the significant argument that mothering is not the predetermined result of women's socialization to prescribed roles but is rather a process of resocialization that follows from the experience and practices of mothering....A very interesting and highly readable account, peppered with insightful theoretical analyses."--Signs
(Signs 1995-08-20)

"McMahon's account is ethnographically rich. She supports her arguments with abundant examples from women's everyday lives....Her study locates mothers' experiences within the often-discounted larger context in which women live, and in doing so it reveals the cultural, social, and political bases and implications of motherhood. As such, it is essential reading for those who want to understand how mothers, children, and society shape one another as they do."--Gender & Society
(Gender & Society 1995-08-20)

"I highly recommend this excellent book. McMahon's engaging interviews as well as her analysis will be of value both to the general reader interested in the costs and rewards of motherhood and to the specialist in the areas of gender and family. In addition, the introduction and the methodological chapter--intriguing accounts of the ways the research process changes theoretical questions and the advantages of in-depth interviewing for answering such questions--will be a terrific addition to courses on qualitative research."--Contemporary Sociology
(Contemporary Sociology 1995-08-20)

"Recommended for graduate students and professionals."--Choice
(Choice 1995-08-20)

About the Author

Martha McMahon received her undergraduate degree in sociology and economics from University College Dublin, Ireland, and her doctorate from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. She is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where she teaches in the areas of gender, women and the environment, and qualitative methodology. She has also worked in a variety of government-sponsored programs in Canada for immigrant women, sole-support mothers, and women on social assistance.

Product Details

  • Series: Perspectives on Marriage & the Family
  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press (August 18, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572300027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572300026
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,378,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5.0 out of 5 stars This is research at its finest! November 2, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
McMahon's book hit that sweet-spot between academic rigor and main-stream readability. Her excellent research into the institution of motherhood as experienced by mothers themselves formed the foundation of a brilliant analysis of what factors both precede and emerge through the mothering experience. One of the aspects that most impressed me was her detailed (and accessible) explanation of her methodology. For anyone considering a grounded theory approach to his or her own research, this book offers an excellent primer. Then, she puts it in motion with narrative-rich depth, remaining simultaneously dedicated to her research question and giving authentic voice to each and every participant. This is grounded theory at its best. Especially when considering the relative narrative silence of "ambivalent" mothers, this kind of research is critical as it unapologetically tackles one of the most far-reaching social dilemmas of our day: how do we mother (a communal enterprise)in a modern culture obsessed with individualism and competition? McMahon, true to her academic obligations, refuses to drift into polemics and keeps her eye on the ball at all times: what is the narrative hue of modern motherhood? A must-read for both academics and interested lay readers.
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