A Qualitative Approach to Exploring the Experience of Mothers in Negotiating Their Maternal Roles When They Return to Work Outside of the Home
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The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of mothers in negotiating their maternal roles in the household after returning to work outside of the home. Three women between the ages of 25-39 who had returned to work for the first time since childbirth participated in semi-structured interviews. Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed and grouped into the following three over-arching themes: Multiple Demands and Trade-offs in Maternal Decision Making; The Negotiation of Roles and Responsibilities Within Partnerships; and Flexibility and Fluidity in Evolving Family Dynamics. The results indicate that the negotiation of maternal roles and responsibilities is unique to each individual and family, and decisions around family responsibilities and domestic work involve complex interactions between personal, interpersonal and sociocultural demands and expectations. A discussion of the results highlights the importance of qualitative research in studying family processes as well as the changing nature of family structures. This study concludes by exploring the limitations of this research as well as practical implications for individual and family counsellors, such as adopting an awareness of socially constructed gender expectations, and recognizing the influence of intensive parenting discourses on maternal decision making.