Making Motherhood Work

My first book, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, is under contract with Princeton University Press and will be published in Fall 2018.

Of all western industrialized countries, the U.S. ranks dead last for supportive work-family policies. How do American mothers’ experiences compare with those of women in countries with very different policy supports? I draw on interviews I conducted with 135 middle-class working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States—four countries that exemplify distinctive forms of welfare provisioning—to examine how these policies play out for women seeking successful careers and contented family lives.

I show that what mothers want and expect regarding work and family depend on their social context, as do the solutions they employ to alleviate their stress. Work-family policies are symptomatic of larger cultural understandings of what is and isn’t appropriate for mothers, and as such they play a role in reproducing the existing social order. By transporting readers into the homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces of the women I interviewed, I demonstrate that policies alone do not fully account for or solve women’s problems. This book highlights how the larger cultural context—including beliefs about gender equality, employment, and motherhood—is crucial for understanding and ameliorating mothers’ struggles.

Making Motherhood Work demonstrates that work-family conflict is not an inevitable feature of contemporary life. Rather, it is the product of public policies and cultural attitudes that must change if we are to improve the lives of mothers and their families.

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