Title

Tension in Achieving Balance in Everyday Life: Intensive and Extensive Mothering

Start Time

6-10-2012 9:40 AM

End Time

6-10-2012 10:10 AM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Although women’s participation in paid occupations has increased substantially, many women still devote significantly more time to housework and childcare occupations than men (Statistics Canada, 2011). The gender gap is lessening, which reflects changes in the ideology of mothering (Christopher, 2012). However, little is known about how employed mothers conceive of and experience balance among their different occupations in their everyday lives.

OBJECTIVE: To understand the multiple ways in which women in dual-income couples with young children construct and experience balance in everyday life.

METHODS: Fifteen heterosexual, dual-income couples living with at least one child under six years old were recruited from a metropolitan area. Each partner in the couples participated in a set of two semi-structured individual interviews. The first interview was designed to explore overall experiences of everyday life; the second interview aimed to elicit experiences and conceptions of balance. Phenomenography and critical discourse analysis were used to analyze the data. Peer-debriefing, reflexivity, and verification of transferability were applied to ascertain the quality of the findings.

RESULTS: Female participants’ two key constructions of balance were: managing life and participating in a mix of occupations. The former construction reinforced the women’s intensive mothering, which involved engaging in childcare and housekeeping occupations to achieve a sense of balance, and limited their freedom to engage in occupations that allowed them to rest, relax, and socialize with friends, which was associated with a sense of imbalance. The latter construction reflected an extensive mothering ideology that encouraged the women to meet their mental, physical, and social needs, which sustained their self-esteem as individuals and led them to feel balanced. However, participating in a mix of occupations might mean spending less time at home and with family, which could lead to a sense of imbalance.

CONCLUSION: The mothers’ two key constructions of balance were underpinned by distinct and competing ideologies of mothering that impacted their freedom to choose occupations. These findings advance our understanding of balance, which will contribute to its conceptualization. It is critical for policymakers and health care professionals involved in providing support and resources to mothers and families to understand that competing constructions of balance can create conflict and that discourses used in health services and guidelines may contribute to the conflict.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe women’s two key constructions of balance and identify ideologies that underpin and explain them
  2. Identify ways in which occupational science might help employed mothers who struggle with the tension between the two constructions

Discussion Questions

  1. Can you identify any other ideologies that underpin and explain women’s constructions of balance? Do the alternative ideologies also suggest tension between these two constructions of balance?
  2. How might occupational science help working mothers who negotiate the tension between the two constructions and achieve balance? Is balance a desirable or important state to achieve?

References

Christopher, K. (2012). Extensive mothering: Employed mothers' constructions of the good mother. Gender & Society, 26(1), 73-96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243211427700

Statistics Canada. (2011). 2006 census analysis series. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/index-eng.cfm

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Oct 6th, 9:40 AM Oct 6th, 10:10 AM

Tension in Achieving Balance in Everyday Life: Intensive and Extensive Mothering

INTRODUCTION: Although women’s participation in paid occupations has increased substantially, many women still devote significantly more time to housework and childcare occupations than men (Statistics Canada, 2011). The gender gap is lessening, which reflects changes in the ideology of mothering (Christopher, 2012). However, little is known about how employed mothers conceive of and experience balance among their different occupations in their everyday lives.

OBJECTIVE: To understand the multiple ways in which women in dual-income couples with young children construct and experience balance in everyday life.

METHODS: Fifteen heterosexual, dual-income couples living with at least one child under six years old were recruited from a metropolitan area. Each partner in the couples participated in a set of two semi-structured individual interviews. The first interview was designed to explore overall experiences of everyday life; the second interview aimed to elicit experiences and conceptions of balance. Phenomenography and critical discourse analysis were used to analyze the data. Peer-debriefing, reflexivity, and verification of transferability were applied to ascertain the quality of the findings.

RESULTS: Female participants’ two key constructions of balance were: managing life and participating in a mix of occupations. The former construction reinforced the women’s intensive mothering, which involved engaging in childcare and housekeeping occupations to achieve a sense of balance, and limited their freedom to engage in occupations that allowed them to rest, relax, and socialize with friends, which was associated with a sense of imbalance. The latter construction reflected an extensive mothering ideology that encouraged the women to meet their mental, physical, and social needs, which sustained their self-esteem as individuals and led them to feel balanced. However, participating in a mix of occupations might mean spending less time at home and with family, which could lead to a sense of imbalance.

CONCLUSION: The mothers’ two key constructions of balance were underpinned by distinct and competing ideologies of mothering that impacted their freedom to choose occupations. These findings advance our understanding of balance, which will contribute to its conceptualization. It is critical for policymakers and health care professionals involved in providing support and resources to mothers and families to understand that competing constructions of balance can create conflict and that discourses used in health services and guidelines may contribute to the conflict.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe women’s two key constructions of balance and identify ideologies that underpin and explain them
  2. Identify ways in which occupational science might help employed mothers who struggle with the tension between the two constructions

Discussion Questions

  1. Can you identify any other ideologies that underpin and explain women’s constructions of balance? Do the alternative ideologies also suggest tension between these two constructions of balance?
  2. How might occupational science help working mothers who negotiate the tension between the two constructions and achieve balance? Is balance a desirable or important state to achieve?