The aim of the study was to facilitate the understanding and interpretation of multiple aspects of working with mothers by examining Finnish mothers’ mothering discourses and the interplay among these discourses.
According to relational dialectics theory, discourses are systems of meaning that are coproduced in interaction. Although discursive research on motherhood has identified various discourses, research on the interplay among competing motherhood discourses is in its infancy.
Qualitative questionnaire data from 479 Finnish mothers of infants were analyzed using contrapuntal analysis. Mothers’ responses to three open-ended questions were analyzed inductively. Emerging themes were identified so as to represent different motherhood discourses, and the power struggle among discourses was addressed.
Four discourses were identified. In the Equality discourse, parenting was presented as ideally shared between co-parents, and equality between family members and various family forms was promoted. In the Familistic discourse, traditional stay-at-home mothering, good housekeeping, and the unity of the family were emphasized. In the Intensive Mothering discourse, the importance of the mother to her child was highlighted. In the Balance discourse, the needs of all family members were presented as equally important, and flexibility in parenting choices was promoted. The results demonstrated discursive struggles within mothers’ answers, suggesting that contemporary Finnish motherhood is a contested terrain of competing ideologies.
The findings suggest that Finnish mothers’ mothering discourses are multivocal and often competing. The results contribute to the current understanding of motherhood ideologies and provide new insights to be utilized in counseling and clinical practice.