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Experts in popular media as well as academia refer to this rhetoric as an ideological war waging between two camps, with the "stay-at-home" ("good") mother pitted against the "working" ("bad") mother (Douglas, 2000; Hays, 1996; Johnston & Swanson, 2004).
Hays (1996) explained that the dominant motherhood ideology in the U. today is that of "intensive mothering." There are three main tenets of "intensive mothering" to which all women must adhere if they are to be viewed as "good" mothers: a) childcare is primarily the responsibility of the mother; b) childcare should be child-centered; and c) children "exist outside of market valuation, and are sacred, innocent and pure, their price immeasurable" (Hays, 1996, p. The "good" mother focuses exclusively on mothering her children and is committed to them in time, energy, and affection (Berry, 1993; Glenn, 1994; Hays, 1996).
In other words, a "good" mother is "all-giving" (Thompson & Walker, 1989).
Popular media from television images of mothers, advice and self-help books for expectant or new mothers, and news stories on motherhood all rely on this oversimplification.
From Eisenberg et al.'s (2002) which promotes a "better baby" through constant contact with the mother, experts continually suggest that women are mothers or workers.
The public (outside the home) and private (within the home) do not separate easily in the life of a mother or paid worker.
In this review essay we explore and critique the dichotomous conceptualizations of "stay-at-home" versus "working" motherhood by concentrating on the discrepancies between ideology and experience.Our focus in the first part of this article is to review the current ideology surrounding "stay-at-home" and "working" mothers.Second, we critique these ideologies and the mother-work dichotomy by highlighting reasons why mothering and working are not mutually exclusive.We begin by reviewing the cultural discourse on "stay-at-home" and "working" mothers.The idea of a "stay-at-home" mother is a modern mainstay in U. culture and is often thought of as the "traditional" mother.Specifically, it assumes that those who are at home are not participating in the paid work force and that those who are working outside the home are disengaged from being mothers.The reality is not clear cut since stay-at-home mothers have varied levels of interaction with their children, complete domestic work without receiving salaried income, and work for paid income either from the home or part-time outside the home (Garey, 1999; Hertz, 1997; Johnston & Swanson, 2004; Ranson, 2004; Uttal, 2004).Motherhood and paid work are intimately intertwined and most women maintain both social roles simultaneously, negotiating the boundaries of each every day.Most women cannot even decide to be a "stay-at-home" mother or "working" mother.Additionally, those who are full-time in the paid work force do not disconnect from their role of mother and, like those at home, may still consider themselves to be "full-time" mothers (Johnston & Swanson, 2004).There are various other mother/worker roles that women can occupy as well; these depend on the type of paid work in which one is engaged, the presence/absence of another parent (usually a father), and the racial-ethnic and socio-economic locations of women and families.