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"Being there": Mothers who stay at home: A study of separations in nature and in time

Boyd, Elizabeth Jean Reid (2000) "Being there": Mothers who stay at home: A study of separations in nature and in time. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The subject of this thesis is mothers who stay at home to care for their children, in the context of the current child care debate in Australia, between mothers at home and mothers at work. The apparent dichotomy between these groups is rhetorically powerful, supported by what I term old divisions, historical dualisms between production/reproduction; public/private; culture/nature; male/female and also sameness/difference (Bacchi, 1990). I argue that these divisions constrain women’s child care choices, and also constrain their experiences of child caring.

My focus on mothers at home incorporates qualitative interviews with mothers in suburban Perth, Western Australia, as well as interviews with ‘advocates’ for mothers at home, representatives and leaders of national Australian women’s and community groups which support mothers who stay at home. I examine the political and media representations of mothers at home in the child care debate, as well as child care advice given to mothers on this issue. I also point to the ways that in these representations and debates; feminists are positioned as anti mothers at home. However, I contend that feminist theory offers a necessary and valuable analysis of mothering at home.

In particular, I argue that child caring in the private reproductive sphere is not ‘naturally’ separate from production and the public sphere, but is dynamic, dialectical and political. To do so, I draw on the politics of reproduction (O’Brien, 1981) and also utilise the politics of location (Rich, 1986) and the politics of advantage (Eveline, 1994). My thesis is that separations in nature and in time (O’Brien, 1981:34) do not hold true for women with regard to child care. “Being there” (a phrase often used in the debate to describe staying at home with children) can be understood and valued in terms beyond dichotomy, towards new ways of “being there” for children, for women and men, in private and in public, at work and at home.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Thiele, Beverly and Baldock, Cora
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