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Why do women in contemporary western societies experience contradiction between their autonomous and maternal selves? What are the origins of this contradiction and the associated ‘double shift’ that result in widespread calls to either ‘lean in’ or ‘opt out’? How are some mothers subverting these contradictions and finding meaningful ways of reconciling their autonomous and maternal selves?

In Modern Motherhood and Women’s Dual Identities, Petra Bueskens argues that western modernisation consigned women to the home and released them from it in historically unprecedented, yet interconnected, ways. Her ground-breaking formulation is that western women are free as ‘individuals’ and constrained as mothers, with the twist that it is the former that produces the latter.


Bueskens’ theoretical contribution consists of the identification and analysis of modern women’s duality, drawing on political philosophy, feminist theory and sociology tracking the changing nature of discourses of women, freedom and motherhood across three centuries. While the current literature points to the pervasiveness of contradiction and double-shifts for mothers, very little attention has been paid to how (some) women are subverting contradiction and ‘rewriting the sexual contract’. Bridging this gap, Bueskens’ interviews ten ‘revolving mothers’ to reveal how periodic absence, exceeding the standard work-day, disrupts the default position assigned to mothers in the home, and in turn disrupts the gendered dynamics of household work.

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"This collection of 23 essays provides and exciting snapshot of contemporary theorising on the maternal within psychoanalytic and social theory. The introduction serves as an excellent overview of this interdisciplinary field and its importance both to motherhood studies and broader feminist thinking. This book is a triumph! 
—Assistant Professor Julie Kelso, Department of Philosophy and Literature, Bond University, Australia.

Mothering and Psychoanalysis brings together a vibrant collection of critical, interdisciplinary perspectives on psychoanalysis, feminism, motherhood and sociology. In her engaging introduction, Petra Bueskens provides a comprehensive overview of the key debates in the field and their contemporary implications. The collection includes reprinted essays from important thinkers and international contributions from a diverse range of writers who offer fresh and original insights into psychoanalysis and mothering. The book represents some of the best of the new scholarship in maternal studies.”
—Associate Professor Julie Stephens, College of Arts, Victoria University, Australia

"Confirming her pathbreaking edited volume, Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives, Bueskens finds that women want to mother, to be with their children and watch them grow."

—Nancy J Chodorow, author of The Reproduction of Mothering, Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley; Lecturer on Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance; Training and Supervising Analyst, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Society.

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This collection defines the field of maternal studies in Australia for the first time. Leading motherhood researchers explore how mothering has evolved across Australian history as well as the joys and challenges of being a mother today. The contributors cover pregnancy, birth, relationships, childcare, domestic violence, time use, work, welfare, policy and psychology, from a diverse range of maternal perspectives. Utilising a matricentric feminist framework, Australian Mothering foregrounds the experiences, emotions and perspectives of mothers to better understand how Australian motherhood has developed historically and contemporaneously. Drawing upon their combined sociological and historical expertise, Bueskens and Pascoe Leahy have carefully curated a collection that presents compelling research on past and present perspectives on maternity in Australia, which will be relevant to researchers, advocates and policy makers interested in the changing role of mothers in Australian society.

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