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Mothering as Work

  • By: JaneMaree Maher
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The nexus between women's physical capacity to reproduce and the socially constituted expectations of maternal care have engendered a universally resonant assumption that mothering is not labor, but is rather a form of being or identity. This essentialist assumption has been entwined with conceptions of maternal care activity as natural, unskilled, and innate for women.

The necessary repetitions of mothering (feeding, changing, cleaning, and comforting) have contributed to views of mothering as reproductive activity rather than productive labor. This distinction differentiates forms of activity that are understood to contribute value (productive) and those activities that seem to emerge without intent from women's reproductive capacity. Feminist scholars and activists have argued for the necessity to recognize the productive contributions that are generated through mothering, and have pointed ...

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