Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




R. Matthews


This thesis looks at the experience of motherhood among a sample of full-time employed mothers of pre-school children in the Metro Toronto region. The perceived costs, rewards and meaning of being a mother of young children are explored. The focus of analysis is on identity. The data show how, along with the increased workload, motherhood also provided opportunities for women to claim personal growth and development and to constitute themselves as 'morally' enhanced persons. The processes whereby women were 'recruited' to motherhood varied by social class and were often subjectively experienced as tentative or problematic. The data show how motherhood did not simply express gender identity as is often argued, but it allowed women to achieve a gendered identity. That is, the social organization of parenting was a profoundly socializing experience that produced, and not merely reflected, a gendered experience of self. Becoming a mother was both a gendered and engendered process whereby women same to a new sense of self. Thus, in contrast to the diversity in the ways women came to have children, women came to share experiences which transformed their identities in very similar ways. Women produced babies, but having babies produced 'womanly' persons.

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