In American culture, the image of balancing work and family life is often represented in the glossy shot of the executive-track woman balancing cell-phone, laptop, and baby. In Weaving Work and Motherhood, Anita Ilta Garey focuses not on the corporate executives so frequently represented in American ads and magazines but, rather, on the women in jobs that typify the vast majority of women's employment in the United States.
A sociologist and work and family expert, Garey situates her research in the health service industry. Interviewing a racially and ethnically diverse group of women hospital workers -- clerical workers, janitorial workers, nurses, and nurse's aids -- Garey analyzes what it means to be at once a mother who is employed and a worker with children. Within the limits of the resources available to them, women integrate their identities as workers and their identities as mothers by valuing their relation to work while simultaneously preserving cultural norms about what it means to be a good mother. Some of these women work non-day shifts in order to have the right blocks of time at home, including, for example, a registered nurse who explains how working the night shift enables her to see her children off to school, greet them when they return, and attend school events in the way she feels "good mothers" should -- even if she finds little time for sleep.
Moving beyond studies of women, work, and family in terms of structural incompatibilities, Garey challenges images of the exclusively "work-oriented" or exclusively "family-oriented" mother. As women talk about their lives, Garey focuses on the meanings of motherhood and of work that underlie their strategies for integrating employment and motherhood. She replaces notions of how women "balance" work and family with a better understanding of how women integrate, negotiate, and weave together their identities as both workers and mothers.
Breaking new ground in the study of work and family, Weaving Work and Motherhood offers new insights for those interested in sociology, gender and women's studies, social policy, child care, social welfare, and health care.