Reconceiving Women

Separating Motherhood from Female Identity

Mardy S. Ireland

Paperback
Paperback
June 1, 1993
ISBN 9780898620160
Price: $19.95 $16.96
195 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
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According to recent surveys, approximately 40% of American women between the ages of 18 and 44 do not have children. Yet these women are virtually missing from accounts of women's lives. In this important new work, Mardy Ireland defines a place for women outside the parameters of motherhood and gives voice to the significant number of women who are not mothers. She draws extensively from interviews with over 100 childless women from various ethnic and educational backgrounds, demonstrating the myriad ways they came to view themselves as complete adults without recourse to the traditional defining criteria of motherhood. Her work offers all women—mothers and nonmothers alike—a vision of self-defined adulthood and a recognition that every woman is the subject of her own life.

Challenging the assumption of deprivation or deviance that is traditionally applied to childless women in psychological theory and popular culture, Dr. Ireland reframes childlessness as a concept and lays a groundwork for an expanded view of women's identity and psychic development. Using contemporary psychoanalytic theory, she reexamines female identity development and presents a positive interpretation of women who—for whatever reason—are not mothers.

To contrast and compare the experiences of her interview subjects, she places them within the changing psychosocial context of the last few decades and categorizes them according to their reasons for childlessness. Included are: 'traditional' women, who are childless by reasons of infertility or health complications; 'transitional' women, who are not mothers because of delaying circumstances; and 'transformative' women, who have actively chosen not to bear children in order to develop lives beyond the field of motherhood. The legend of Lilith, a creation story of the first woman, described in the last chapter, places both female desire and female power in a longstanding historical and mythic context.

Animated by excerpts, quotes, and stories from the many interviews, RECONCEIVING WOMEN: SEPARATING MOTHERHOOD FROM FEMALE IDENTITY is illuminating for general readers and professionals alike. It provides valuable insights for anyone interested in women's studies and the psychology of women, and serves as an excellent textbook for courses in these fields.
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