Book Review “Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Motherhood” (Demeter Press)
Dr. Linda Ennis, who is moderating a panel on “Differentiating Between Coaches & Mental Health Professionals” at the upcoming FDRIO conference, shares one of her books with us today on “intensive mothering”. She will be offering an online course on this subject on Dec 10th-11th, which will elaborate upon how it impacts the parenting process throughout marriage and divorce (drlindaennis.com). It is recommended that this book on intensive mothering be read in conjunction with her book entitled “After the Happily Ever After: Empowering Women & Mothers In Relationships” (Demeter Press) to fully understand the role of mothers and parents in marriage and divorce.
In Hays’ original work, she spoke of “intensive mothering” as primarily being conducted by mothers, centered on children’s needs with methods informed by experts, which are labour-intensive and costly simply because children are entitled to this maternal investment. Could a mother be a bit of both, sometimes an intensive mother and sometimes not? If so, what would that look like? Can a mother be one type of mother with one of her children and yet engage in another form of mothering with the other? Could she have characteristics of each and yet not be either?
Dr. Ennis noted from her early research on paternal involvement and maternal employment that there were fathers who were intensively involved with their children, as well. Who were these men and did they engage in the same type of intensive parenting that the mothers displayed?
As a researcher in the area of combining motherhood with employment, she reflected upon how the early childhood literature was incompatible with the motherhood and feminist literatures. In other words, what was good for the child didn’t always seem to work out so well for the mother and the reverse. How should one reconcile this dichotomy? Dr. Ennis certainly believed in the importance of attachment in a child’s life but to what degree? What impact would intensive mothering have on the mothers, as well as their children, throughout the lifespan? If mothers are engaging in this mode of mothering, what is motivating them to do so at their own expense? If mothers reduce the degree of intensive mothering, who is carrying on with this role, if parenting requires this mode of engagement?
Dr. Ennis decided that she needed to officially speculate on these issues pertaining to intensive mothering and thus this edited collection was born.
The book is divided into three sections: Understanding and Assessing Intensive Mothering; Intensive Mothering Today; and Intensive Mothering: Staying, Leaving or Changing. The first section draws on academic research and theory in the area of intensive mothering to help further understand the phenomenon. The second section explores the practical implications of intensive mothering in various scenarios and the last section reflects upon the future implications of intensive mothering, and the possible adjustments or alternatives to it. This collection of essays has been written by academics from various disciplines, from different parts of the world, at different points in their careers. It clarifies what intensive mothering is all about, as well as outlining why it is the predominant form of mothering in modern times.
Dr. Ennis believes that this collection will be a helpful addition to the field of motherhood and parenting. It may be used as an additional resource for family mediators, who are working closely with parents trying to do their best for their children under challenging circumstances, which is particularly relevant today during COVID. As a societal expectation, intensive mothering has been further thrust upon mothers during this unprecedented period of time to the detriment of mothers’ careers. This collection will help us better understand the impact that intensive mothering has on parenting and the family. It will assist dispute resolution professionals to understand the underpinnings of parenting, especially mothering, as they work with families undergoing separation and divorce.