Perfect motherhood: Middle-class mothers in urban China

Lecture by Dr. CHEN Meng, Assistant professor, Shanghai University.

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Comments by Dr. Michala Hvidt Breengaard, Postdotoral fellow, University of Copenhagen

Abstract 

Based on in-depth interviews with thirteen middle-class mothers in Shanghai, this paper explores the social construction of the ideal mother in metropolitan China. It reveals that middle-class women face the conflict between their own perception of the ideal status of being a mother and motherhood expected by the family and the society. Whereas the middle-class mothers are keen in seeking a delicate balance between childrearing and their own work and life, their perception of good motherhood is shaped both by gender division within family and the dominant motherhood ideology outside the family. While the middle-class mothers tend to be alert to the media discourse of ‘super-moms’, their self-assessment of whether they are good mothers reflects their deliberate reflection of motherhood and internalization of the dominant repertoire of motherhood. This paper reveals the emergence of ‘knowledge and emotion intensitve motherhood’ in urban China. Nevertheless, it is worth noting how women claim their autonomy in their practice of motherhood.

Bio

CHEN Meng is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the School of Sociology and Political Science, Shanghai University. She received her PhD in Social Change from Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester. Before that, she earned her MA degrees at the Department of Sociology, University of Birmingham and School of Journalism, Fudan University.

She joined Shanghai University in 2013. Her main area of research is social stratification and social mobility, and her current research interests include social mobility and its social consequences, gender inequality, and class differences in parenting. Having worked as a team member in a few research projects since 2013, she has just started working as PI on a 3-year NSSF-funded project that examines the parenting and mobility strategies of the middle-class families in Shanghai. 

In the past, Dr. Chen has published in both Chinese and English on intergenerational mobility, health inequality, and gender inequality in China.

Organizers

Co-ordination for Gender Research, Gendering Asia Network and ThinkChina

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