This chapter focuses on the question of how to explain agency in the context of motherhood. In so doing, it seeks to go beyond the tendency to focus exclusively on the burden of coordination which institutional structures generate for mothers, in order to examine the evaluative burden which normative structures demand of this role. Drawing on interview material with 40 middle class mothers across two research sites in the UK and US, the paper develops a three-part typology of maternal role performance. This relies on the insights of contemporary action theory, with its emphasis on emotionally configured intersubjective interpretation of normative structures, and more specifically on Joas’s pragmatist theorisation of social action as a creative process. The paper argues that maternal agency takes three distinct ideal-typical forms, namely romantic expressivism, rational instrumentalism, and pragmatism. These are conceived as distinct creative responses to the evaluative demands of motherhood, as the agents go about interpreting situated norms, needs and interests.
|Title of host publication||Family Continuity and Change: Contemporary Perspectives|
|Editors||Vida Česnuitytė, Detlev Lück, Eric D. Widmer|
|Place of Publication||Basingstoke|
|Number of pages||22|
|Publication status||Published - 19 Jan 2017|
Smyth, L. (2017). The Creativity of Mothering: Intensity, Anxiety and Normative Accountability. In V. Česnuitytė, D. Lück, & E. D. Widmer (Eds.), Family Continuity and Change: Contemporary Perspectives (pp. 269-290). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.