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SOURCE: Public Domain Pictures

Searching for that perfect Mother’s Day gift this year?  My suggestion is some reading material, all of which you can find here.  So go ahead and share this with loved ones this weekend.

Gift Idea #1:  Workplace Tips for Mom-to-Be

There’s the study “Professional Image Maintenance: How Women Navigate Pregnancy in the Workplace.” By Laura M. Little, Virginia Smith Major, Amanda S. Hinojosa, and Debra L. Nelson recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.

The authors were interested in understanding professional image maintenance at work. More specifically, they asked how employees sought to managing others’ perceptions of them, the better to maintain a viable professional image. In one of their three studies presented in the paper, they interviewed a sample of 35 mostly white, pregnant or recently pregnant working women employed in a range of jobs. The question they posed was this:  How does pregnancy affect working women’s professional experiences?

By and large, interviews revealed that pregnant women actively engage in “image maintenance.”  They actively attempt to manage others’ perceptions and reactions to their pregnancy in order to preserve the professional image they had before revealing their pregnancy.  Interviewees felt this image maintenance was necessary in order to avoid being stereotyped as “delicate” or “cute” or “irresponsible”—all of which have negative implications for their professional image and careers. Others cited the need to ensure that others did not see them as more likely to quit (which would have reduced their changes of winning good job assignments, promotions, etc.). How did these women do this?

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A recent New York Times article by

The article discusses sociologist Michelle Budig‘s research showing that bias affecting fathers and mothers varies by income level: Men with high incomes see the largest pay increase for having children; mothers with low incomes experience the lowest relative earnings. The article also discusses sociologist Shelly J. Correll‘s finding that “employers rate fathers as the most desirable employees, followed by childless women, childless men and finally mothers.” In Correll’s words, “A lot of these effects really are very much due to a cultural bias against mothers.”

The New York Times’s Economix Blog had a post on Friday that summarized some interesting new polling data from Gallup. In light of our recent panel on the gender wage gap and the role of “choice” in individual decision making around staying at home vs. working, I thought it would be good to share some quick highlights here.

Among the most interesting findings is that stay-at-home moms reported higher rates of worry, sadness and depressed emotions than their employed counterparts (both with and without children).


This varies by income level, with mothers in households that earn less than $36,000 annually expressing higher rates of worry and stress than their employed peers.

My take away is not that being a stay-at-home mother is intrinsically bad for your mental health. Rather, it may be that the stressors associated with being a stay-at-home mother are such (for some women) that their mental health suffers in comparison to their employed peers. These stressors are likely complicated phenomena with a diverse range of etiologies. Unfortunately, the Gallup report does not go into any follow-up questions that were asked, so we aren’t given a good picture as to why women felt this way.

A couple caveats – these are self reported mental health evaluations, not evaluations by mental health professionals. They are also only descriptive statistics, with no included difference of mean measures or the like. Gallup reports that these data are drawn from a sample n of 60,000 and have a maximum margin of sampling error of +/- 1% (95% confidence).

I’ve been using a lot of air quotes in my classroom discussions, and I’m finding it a bit troubling. Not just because the quotes date me to the late 1990s, but also because they are inadequate stand-ins for something that needs to be said. Those gestures you make by your ears that slip out with little warning, shooting up from your hip mid-sentence as if to add irony, complexity, and intrigue. Women’s and men’s “choices” in work. Women’s and men’s “choices” in family.

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