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Accompanied by guilt: modern motherhood the Swedish way
Stockholm University.
1999 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The general purpose of this dissertation was to shed light on employed mothers' everyday life experiences, especially their experiences of guilt in the interplay of family and employment. The project upon which the dissertation is based was designed within a social constructionist, gender-theoretical frame of reference. The results of the empirical investigations are presented in four articles that deals with various aspects of the meaning of being an employed mother in Sweden today. The empirical foundation for the articles is qualitative interviews with employed mothers who live in Sweden.

The first study aimed to identify a concept of guilt based on the experience of working mothers themselves. The most salient feature of the guilt phenomenon was that it was a regular feature of everyday life with which the women were very familiar. Their descriptions of guilt situations evince a general feeling of responsibility, especially towards the children.

The second study focused on women's ability to arrange paid work in relation to of how they think about and give meaning to employment. The results showed that paid work was balanced and valued primarily in relation to responsibility for the children and that significant opportunities for flexibility with respect to working hours were connected to guilt.

In the third study the individual understanding of motherhood in relation to culturally sanctioned ideas of motherhood was investigated. It was concluded that the picture of positive motherhood constructed within the emphatic discourse of gender equality within Swedish society represents a style of motherhood in which the child stands constantly at the centre but where the mother is also expected to find her well-being external to the child and family.

Repeated interviews over a period of three years laid the empirical foundation for the fourth study, which focused on changes in the meaning of responsibility in relation to children's development. The individual frames of understanding were analysed in relation to culturally sanctioned ideas about children's needs as well to developmental psychological theories. The results showed that the meaning of responsibility changes as children grow and that responsibility for older children is less visible. Responsibility for older children is not so much expressed through practical care as through invisible systems of support and through emotional caring.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University , 1999. , 60 p.
Keyword [en]
Motherhood, guilt, responsibility, employment, gender-process
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-64299ISBN: 91-7153-978-6OAI: diva2:456843
Public defence
1999-10-15, 10:00
Härtill 4 uppsatserAvailable from: 2011-11-16 Created: 2011-11-16Bibliographically approved

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