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Eradicating the Mothering Effect: Women as Workers and Mothers, Successfully and Simultaneously

Rona Kaufman Kitchen, Duquesne University School of Law


In the United States, the need for federal legislation to address work-family conflict has never been more pressing. Mothers are the primary caretakers of their children even while they participate in the paid market in record numbers. However, because the workplace is designed to accommodate the needs of the traditional male, mothers often face distinct challenges when combining their paid market and care work. For example, middle-class families are working longer hours than ever before, over 70 percent of mothers participate in the paid labor market, and mothers earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, two-thirds of mothers have no federally protected job leave and the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that fails to guarantee any paid maternity leave. As a result, work-family conflict is a reality for most working mothers and combining paid market work with mothering, successfully and simultaneously, is a goal for many millions of America’s mothers. This article asserts that federal legislation to address work-family conflict and enable mothers to combine their paid market work with their family care work should be adopted because mothering is of significant value to individuals, families, and society at large. To that end, this article draws on anthropological, psychological, and sociological studies, in addition to governmental data, popular books and articles, and legal scholarship to prove that mothering is of value and that acknowledging its value is of central theoretical significance to the legal discourse surrounding work, family, and gender.

Suggested Citation

Rona Kaufman Kitchen. "Eradicating the Mothering Effect: Women as Workers and Mothers, Successfully and Simultaneously" Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society 26.2011 (2012): 167-212.
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