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Mothering Ideology: A Qualitative Exploration of Mothers’ Perceptions of Navigating Motherhood Pressures and Partner Relationships

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Goodwin


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© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.Good mother ideology refers to beliefs that women are only ‘good’ mothers if they adhere to the tenets of dominant parenting discourse, such as intensive mothering ideology, which prioritizes children’s needs and child-raising above all else. Undergirded by this ideology, mothers’ attempts to navigate the transition to motherhood are fraught with pressures, and the transition is associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and children; yet existing research gives little attention to the quality or dynamics of the partner relationship as part of this transition. The current study examined motherhood pressure and the impact on partner relationships through individual, semi-structured interviews with 19 mothers living in Australia who were 18 years or older in a heterosexual relationship with at least one child under the age of five. Thematic analysis revealed four key themes: discourses on motherhood: criticisms of mothers and internalised guilt; transformation of identity; entrenchment of gender roles through childrearing; and positive relationship dynamics: supportive fathers and challenging gender roles. This study contributes to the larger body of literature highlighting the complexity of dominant mothering ideology and its entanglement with and impact on partner relationships. Further, this study includes mothers’ perceptions of how they navigate these pressures within the relationship with their partner and the family unit. These findings have implications for programs to support mothers and other caregivers, as well as challenge unrealistic standards for motherhood.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Williamson T, Wagstaff DL, Goodwin J, Smith N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sex Roles

Year: 2023

Volume: 88

Pages: 101-117

Print publication date: 01/01/2023

Online publication date: 20/12/2022

Acceptance date: 12/12/2022

ISSN (print): 0360-0025

ISSN (electronic): 1573-2762

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s11199-022-01345-7


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