The Good Working Mother: Managerial Women’s Sensemaking and Feelings About Work-Family Issues

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work-family, managerial women, sensemaking, irony, gender, identity

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We use a sensemaking lens to explore how women managers experience and articulate work–life concerns upon their return to paid work following maternity leaves. We focus on 11 women who held different types of managerial positions, including vice presidents, circulation managers, and human resources experts. We found that our participants re‐framed the good mother image into a good working mother role that fit their lifestyles and interests. To accomplish this reframing, participants engaged in three thematic processes supportive of the good working mother image: (a) good working mothers arrange quality child care; (b) good working mothers are (un)equal partners; and (c) good working mothers feel pleasure in their working mother role. These themes and image were both ironic and fragile constructions of working motherhood. Because these themes and images enable participants to make sense of and establish the worth of working motherhood to family members, friends, acquaintances, organizational members, and community members, they provide a reason why middle‐ or upper‐class working and stay‐at‐home mothers may be in conflict about work and family choices.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Communication Studies, v. 56, issue 3, p. 261-285