Bringing Home the Bacon while Staying Out of the Fire: Communicatively Negotiating the Mother with a Job and the Mommy with a Career Identity

Becky L DeGreeff, Robert S Littlefield


Women choose to become employed for a variety of reasons including financial necessity and/or career aspirations. Some of these women also chose to work while simultaneously raising a family. The communication strategies of employed mothers when confronting comments made by coworkers and associates about their life choices to work outside of the home are examined through the perspectives of two types of working women: the mother with a “job” and the mother with a “career.” Three themes describing the purpose of work, personal desires, and characteristics of criticism and their responses are drawn from interviews with employed mothers. Passive and aggressive communication strategies are identified as a means to confront the criticisms. Findings reveal the mother with a “job” is more likely to be expected to stay employed in order to help provide for her family and is criticized for her parenting choices. On the other hand, the mother with a “career” is more likely to be criticized for her desire to remain employed after having children in order to work toward career advancement. The differences between the women are discussed along with implications for family policy.



communication strategies; life choices; motherhood; work; career

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