Narrating motherhood: The transformative potential of individual stories

Kruger L.-M. (2003)


In contemporary western society, motherhood has acquired a special significance for women: Women are expected to find fulfilment and satisfaction in the role of the "ever-bountiful, ever-giving, self-sacrificing mother". Feminists, in attempts to problematise this "myth of motherhood", have emphasised the importance of focusing on the subjectivity of women by advocating that women themselves speak of, and reflect on their experiences of motherhood. In this article the narratives of two middle-class tertiary educated women were analysed to see to what extent the personal stories of individual women can serve to subvert such myths and change social realities. It was found that although both participants clearly articulated a profound ambivalence about their pregnancies and the possibility of becoming a mother, both women ended up addressing their ambivalence by simplifying their stories. Furthermore, in their quest for coherence and order, they reverted to reflecting and, in fact, reproducing dominant motherhood ideologies. It is argued that even the most individual stories are also shaped by political realities and that women will not be able to embrace the ambivalence in their stories in a context where such ambivalence is not yet tolerated within the dominant ideologies.

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