Troubling reflexivity: the identity flows of teachers becoming mothers

Thomson, Rachel and Kehily, Mary Jane (2011). Troubling reflexivity: the identity flows of teachers becoming mothers. Gender and Education, 23(3) pp. 233–245.



This paper explores the transition to first-time motherhood as experienced by a small sub-sample of women engaged in the professional care of young children. In the context of a wider study of motherhood in the UK, their experience of combining work with new motherhood was distinctive. Women who professionally care for young children present a counter narrative to the view that teaching and motherhood can be blended. Negotiating the boundaries between work and motherhood produced a troubling reflexivity in which difficult feelings emerged and collided. Working in urban education involves emotionally intense forms of attachment that are disrupted by pregnancy. Becoming a mother prompts a renegotiation of professional and personal boundaries, leading women to pursue mothering as a separate enterprise, marked by individual solutions to care and career. Separating themselves from their working environment, women simultaneously isolate themselves from their middle-class counterparts who pay for childcare and return to work.

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