School for Social Work
Mothers-Psychology, Motherhood-Online chat groups, Motherhood-Psychological aspects, Ambivalence, Qualitative research, Maternal ambivalence, Motherhood, Anonymous, Digital forum, Online forum
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore narratives of maternal ambivalence displayed on an anonymous, digital discussion forum. This investigation based on an analysis of 341 written discussion posts shared on a message thread of a public website, which became an anonymous platform for mothers expressing negative feelings about mothering. This central questions of this study focus on how mothers' described their maternal ambivalence, what factors impact their ambivalence, whether they discuss guilt, shame, and social stigma associated with maternal ambivalence, and what participants reported gaining from their use of the site. The findings of this study suggest the need for a broadening of the definition of maternal ambivalence to more closely match participants' definitions. Participants of this study defined their maternal ambivalence as loving their children, but hating their role as a mother. Their redefinition of the term is a departure from the popular definition of maternal ambivalence, and demonstrates the importance of an expansion of the term. Further, a combination of relational, intrapsychic, and environmental/situational factors were found to make maternal ambivalence more difficult or easier to manage. Feelings of guilt, shame and perceived social stigma were found to negatively impact mothers experiencing ambivalence, and inhibit them from expressing or seeking support for maternal ambivalence. Use of this anonymous discussion forum was found to provide a safe environment where mothers experienced support, relief, reduction in isolation, and where mothers gave each other advice, encouragement, and validated one another's feelings and experiences. Lastly, a kind of critical dialogue was found to emerge on the site discussion board, in which posters began to critique social messages and cultural pressures, and to conceptualize new paradigms for womanhood and motherhood. Implications for the field of social work practice were drawn from these findings to normalize feelings of ambivalence, identify factors that impact ambivalence, and facilitate mothers in accessing support for ambivalence.
Lacy, Christine M., ""I love my children... but I hate being a mom" : exploring narratives of maternal ambivalence in anonymous, digital spaces" (2015). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.