Working mothers, injury and embodied care work

Janemaree Maher, Nickie Charles, Carol Wolkowitz

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Abstract

In this article, we examine how mothers respond when injury interrupts maternal care, using the lens of embodied care, which we conceptualize as a form of 'body work'. We draw on findings from a qualitative research project with two organizations in Australia that help people with injuries to return to work, examining the experiences of workers who are also mothers of dependent children. Mothers' inability to care for children during periods of injury was a significant concern for our interviewees; constraints on physical labour and physical affection were particularly troubling, indicating the importance of embodied maternal caregiving to maternal roles. Yet, while these mothers inhabited the spheres of paid work and unpaid care work simultaneously, service providers did not consider embodied care work or its relevance to injured women's ongoing needs for support. While our findings reflect the experiences of injured women, they also suggest the need for a materialist analysis of the ways that both paid work and care activities are deeply enmeshed in and through the bodies of those doing the work. Employers and service organizations still fail to recognize maternal 'body work', and this may be typical of social attitudes more widely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-894
Number of pages18
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Volume26
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Body work
  • Embodied care work
  • Maternal employment
  • Women's injuries

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