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Reframing motherhood in a cultural transition : the experiences of immigrant Chinese mothers

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Title: Reframing motherhood in a cultural transition : the experiences of immigrant Chinese mothers
Author: Shu, Ning
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Educational Studies
Copyright Date: 1998
Abstract: Mothering is structured by the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs. This study is based on in-depth ethnographic interviews with eight Chinese mothers who are recent immigrants to Canada from China. The study illuminates the ways changing social and cultural structures of mothering have reframed these women's conceptions of themselves as mothers and as workers. Recent Western feminist writing has pointed out that mothering and caring for children is influenced greatly by social structures and social constructions and not only by the natural demands and needs of children (Everingham, 1994; Kaplan, 1992; Tom, 1993; Thurer, 1994;). Mothering occurs within specific social contexts that constrain and shape material and cultural resources (Glenn, 1994). Multiple perspectives are thus necessary in order to embrace difference as an essential part of commonality as we examine motherhood and mother-assubject (Collins, 1994). Using a cross-cultural perspective, this study explores how these Chinese mother's conceptions of mothering were reconstructed in a specific historical situation: their emigration from China to Canada. All the participants were under the age of 38 with children under the age of 8. Participants were selected using a snowball sampling technique. They were spouses of Chinese international students at one university. The study gathered information about these women's experiences as mothers in both China and Canada. My particular focus was on the ways these women's conceptions of mothering and employment were reframed in a cultural transition. The participants were asked questions about their ideas of mothering and how social and economic conditions influenced their mothering in China and in Canada. This study compares these women's social conditions and resources for mothering in China and in Canada. I focus on the interaction between job (e.g., paid maternal leave, employment opportunities), familial support (spousal and extended familial assistance), social expectations and values surrounding mothering and women's employment, and access to and ideology surrounding extra-family child care for children of different ages. The study found that when these women moved to Canada, they were confronted with changes that modified their experience of mothering. Their conception of motherhood formed in the Chinese cultural context was challenged and reconstructed as they went through their immigration experiences. The study shows that these Chinese women's new conceptualizations of mothering are neither those they held in China nor those held by dominant Canadian society. These women came to value the mothering role highly as they assumed more mothercare. However, they still see caring for children at home as having less social status than employment outside the home. This study shows these women accepting and incorporating parts of Western attachment theory without surrendering totally to dominant Canadian mothering ideology. In their view, mothering is not women's primary and sole mission and chief source of satisfaction, but only one part of it.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7863
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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