The Shifting Paid Work and Family Life Experiences and Cultural Habitus of Motherhood: An Australian Perpsective

By Sheree Cartwright.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There is now a burgeoning literature on the ways in which women’s paid work, care and family life orientations have changed in recent decades, particularly in countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Despite the significant attention in recent years by some researchers, politicians as well as in popular discourse, on ‘individual/personal choices’ for explaining women’s paid work and family orientations and outcomes, little of this detail figures in the experiences of the women who are the focus of this study. Rather, women’s work-family arrangements are complex with constant adjusting, accommodating and juggling between the fixed and immutable factors. In this paper, I argue that there is an absence of ‘individual/personal choice’ as represented in the dominant rhetoric about ‘free/genuine choice’, in relation to women’s paid work and care experiences and arrangements after childbirth. The main focus is on the Australian context, drawing on select case stories from a longitudinal, qualitative research project in progress with 27 women. I demonstrate that women’s paid work, care and family arrangements after childbirth are located in an internalised cultural ‘habitus’ of motherhood, which constructs women’s paid work and family realities more than notions of ‘individual/personal choice’.

Keywords: Women, Work, Care and Family Life, Choice, Motherhood, Australia, Cultural Habitus

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.139-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 546.979KB).

Sheree Cartwright

Doctoral Research Candidate, Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Sheree Cartwright is writing her Doctoral Thesis at RMIT University on women’s paid work and family arrangements after childbirth. In 2006 she concluded work at the Centre for Applied Social Research on an ARC Linkage Grant exploring work-life integration in a manufacturing organisation, and co-convened the Third Annual RMIT Women and Work Conference. She has worked as a Sessional Tutor and Guest Lecturer in undergraduate courses on gender, work and family, and qualitative research strategies.


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