Making sense of being a working mother

Kikki Nellemann Lauritzen

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


Feminist scholarship has for many years drawn attention to the unrealistic assumptions embedded in gendered discourses that patterns women‟s lives. This focus has led to calls for feminists to pay attention to what is being said about women in general, and mothers in particular in the discourses that models their lives. Yet while the importance and need for the continuation of such endeavors is acknowledged, this thesis switches the focus to examine what women themselves are saying. This thesis examines how Danish educated women make sense of the work/life choices they have articulated during and after they returned from maternity leave to paid work. In the thesis I have analyzed how educated women who may be among the talent recruited for future manager posts, tries to construct a work/life balance in their everyday life. Through examination of the data, the author derived three sensemaking strategies consisting of the results of the work/life choices that the women had made or negotiated before and during the maternity leave and after they had resumed paid work. The strategies are 1) Securing a safe environment; in which the women frame how they can continuously make sure that her child is brought up in a safe environment, 2) The „good‟ mother; in which the women make sense of how they perform as mothers and have to split their identity into three to optimize their identity as mothers, and 3) The working mother; in which the women makes sense of how they can fulfill their roles both as employees and as mothers. All strategies are ongoing, as the women will continue making sense of their strategies after this thesis had been written. The conclusive findings show that employers need to adjust to the idea that it is no longer only women who will be away from work for a longer period of time during the leave, and likewise it has to be accepted that also men are staying home with the child if it turns sick, and leaves work at 4 am. to pick up the child. Hence, retaining pro-male legislations and staff-policies can no longer be excused with that the women averagely are working less compared to male co-workers during their time on the labor-market. The 12 months of earmarked leave to women will have to be changed to a solution similar to the Icelandic, and little changes will have to be made as it is only the way the months are divided among the gender that will change. The present idea that it is only men who are able to work more than the average 37 hours/week will also have to be adjusted, as a sharing of the child-related routines such as leaving the job at 4 am. will be a tendency among both men and women meaning that women will be able to work late half of the week. It may then be expected that the notion of that only loyal workers who stay in late are suitable for promotions will modified, and staff meetings after 4 am would possibly be less common. Along will the thought among women, as seen in this thesis, that having small children means that they are not able to have a career will no longer be the truth. All these changes will also mean that the idea that women should earn 18 percent less than men can no longer be excused.

Uddannelsercand.merc.Business, Language and Culture, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
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