• Camilla Dahlbom Sørensen
  • Caitlin Bailey Fammé
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
Since women were introduced to the labor force, the unpaid labor at home has still largely been considered the woman's job, in heteorosexsual dual-earner couples’ homes. In homes with younger children, the burden seems even more comprehensive for the mother to bear. In this master thesis we seek to identify the discourses used for mothers to seemingly accept or object to having these extra daily work hours, with the following research question: Which discourses are being used by mothers with young children, in describing the unpaid labor gap between a mother and a father. By interviewing eight well educated working mothers in the ages of 31 - 39, with one or more children between 0 - 6 years of age, we elaborate on the structures which seem to be keeping them in a tightly locked grip of doing the majority of the unpaid labor. Through the lens of a social constructionist epistemological perspective, with foundation in the works of Judith Butler (1988; 1999), we look at how gender is constructed, performed and reproduced throughout history on the basis of culturally normative ideas. Thus the critical discursive analysis (CDA) has been used as a methodology for analysing the empirical data, in which the main focus has been to identify discursive practises proclaimed by the mothers. Further, a thematic analysis (TA) has been appropriated as an analytical tool, which helped to narrow down the emergent categories in describing the global theme; the unpaid work distribution. Further categories underlying this category were: gender roles in parenting, which included the themes: strain and expectations; cause, which included: essentialism, socialization, dispositional conditions and work conditions; and coping strategy, which included: compensatory strategies, demand-reducing strategies and voice. To accompany the CDA, a theoretical analysis has been carried out simultaneously, in which we draw on various critiques of neurological or biological explanations (Eliot, 2011; Kuo et al., 2015) for gendered differences, as well as several social psychological theories pertaining to socialization (Young, 1980; Butler, 1988), feeling rules (Hochschild 1979; 2012b), positioning theory (Langenhove & Harré, 1999; Harré & Moghaddam, 2003; Harré et al., 2009; Harré, 2012) and coping strategies (Astvik et al., 2014). The study finds that women switch in between two dominant discourses when reflecting on where the gendered labor distribution stems from and is reproduced; socialization and essentialism. Further, these explanations helped the mothers to legitimize their feelings of being insufficient when using a discourse pertaining to socialization, while the essentialistic discourses allowed them to accept these gender roles as static and immutable. Furthermore, it seems that the unpaid labor is largely accepted as the mothers’ responsibility, by both the interviewed mothers and their husbands. This is made explicit through the discursive use of the mothers being ‘thankful’ and ‘lucky’ to have husbands to ‘help them out’ at home. This furthered a point of the mothers wanting to be acknowledged for their labor, since most accepted the essentialistic explanation, which made them accept the primary responsibility. Following the analysis, the main findings, responsibility and acknowledgement, were discussed, along with contradictions between socialization and essentialism; implications; and idiographic scientific ideal. The main contribution of this study is to highlight the mothers’ acceptance and objections to the unfair gendered distribution, through critical discursive methods, while also discussing what implications the essentialist beliefs and explanations can have on an individual and societal level.
Publication date28 May 2021
Number of pages115
ID: 412988733