Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 16 Issue 4 (July/August 2006), Pages 247-336

‘I think motherhood for me was a bit like a double‐edged sword’: the narratives of older mothers (pages 316-330)


It is assumed in Western society that women want to become mothers. This desire is situated within the ideology of the ‘perfect mother’. However, feminists have highlighted contradictions between this ideology and the reality of mothering. A trend towards later motherhood has recently been identified. Delayed motherhood has been associated with a number of advantages such as a sense of psychological readiness, however this may mask some of its negative aspects. The aim of the study reported here was to explore the transition to, and lived experience of, delayed motherhood. Five women who were over 30 prior to the birth of their first child were interviewed. A narrative analysis at the personal, interpersonal and societal levels was conducted. At the personal level, diverse stories which contained both problems in adapting to motherhood and also progressive aspects of positive experiences and integration of maternal identities were told. At the interpersonal level, the prominence of the ‘double‐edged’ tone conveyed maternal ambivalence. At the societal level, dominant ideologies of the ‘good mother’ and normative development were identified. Though the women actively constructed their stories and attempted to resist dominant representations, this analysis emphasises the need for more realistic portrayals of delayed motherhood. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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