Mothering through Precarity

Women's Work and Digital Media

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 11 illustrations Published: March 2017

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies

In Mothering through Precarity Julie A. Wilson and Emily Chivers Yochim explore how working- and middle-class mothers negotiate the difficulties of twenty-first-century mothering through their everyday engagement with digital media. From Facebook and Pinterest to couponing, health, and parenting websites, the women Wilson and Yochim study rely upon online resources and communities for material and emotional support. Feeling responsible for their family's economic security, these women often become "mamapreneurs," running side businesses out of their homes. They also feel the need to provide for their family's happiness, making successful mothering dependent upon economic and emotional labor. Questioning these standards of motherhood, Wilson and Yochim demonstrate that mothers' work is inseparable from digital media as it provides them the means for sustaining their families through such difficulties as health scares, underfunded schools, a weakening social safety net, and job losses.


"... women, with children or without, have a lot to gain from this smart, insightful work. It outlines a nagging problem so specific I lacked a clear definition of it before I started reading.... It’s an idea rooted directly in our dominant political ideology, one that many cannot name: neoliberalism." — Amani Newton, Pittsburgh City Paper

"Mothering through Precarity ... richly illustrates what a theoretically, conceptually and emotionally confused and paradoxical situation women are in with respect to an online world that offers family-enhancing information and advice, communicative solace and flexible income-earning opportunities, but also exploits their ongoing efforts at maintaining a positive family environment by creating new anxieties and offering meagre financial returns.... After reading this book, it is not so difficult to understand why some women in the Rust Belt voted for Donald Trump’s media-fuelled promises of a better future."
  — E. Stina Lyon, Times Higher Education

"Mothering through Precarity is at its best when it demonstrates digital media as a crucial mechanism by which mothers daily discipline themselves to feel ever more optimistic and upbeat in spite of the pervasive uncertainty they feel.... Suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses at the intersection of family, gender, and media, we recommend this book, and in particular chapter three and the Conclusion, for sections highlighting the use of digital media in families."
  — Elissa Zeno and Allison J. Pugh, Gender & Society

"Mothering Through Precarity is a critical contribution to the study of . . . the affective and psychic life of neoliberalism. . . . With genuine empathy and care for their interviewees, Wilson and Chivers Yochim show how mothers are caught up in the forces of precarization that threaten their families, and how they turn to the digital mamasphere to resist the turbulences of advanced neoliberalism." — Shani Orgad, Journal of Communication Inquiry

“Wilson and Chivers Yochim’s book is a cautionary tale . . . as they give us an expansive view of the resistant nature of our cultural ideals around motherhood and the family. Mothering through Precarity will be useful for gender, media, and cultural studies audiences, and possibly for political science readers too.”
  — Kara Van Cleaf, Feminist Media Studies

"This rich approach to the topic and subjects of inquiry makes this book valuable to feminist media and cultural studies’ scholars, motherhood studies, and those with an interest in the gendered aspects of new media and affect theory. . . . An original and important scholarly contribution on gendered digital culture and the growing mamasphere." — Tisha Dejmanee, International Journal of Communication

"A well-written and well-argued book about modern motherhood. . . both thought-provoking and deeply saddening. . . . This book is recommended for scholars of motherhood, contemporary gender performance, neoliberalism, and digital media consumption." — Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley, Resources for Gender and Women's Studies

"Mothering Through Precarity provides a complex, detailed account of the trails and traces of neoliberalism within the routines and affective networks of mothers." — Anne-Marie Trépanier, Synoptique

"Motherhood and mothering—a vexed feminist issue, a central form of invisible labor along vectors of race and class, a capitalist invention, a digital community, a source of affect, love, and often pain. The remarkable Mothering through Precarity manages to parse all these dimensions and more, with insight, intelligence, and compassion. Connecting capitalist economies with networks of care, Julie A. Wilson and Emily Chivers Yochim have produced a brilliant, compelling book, one that refuses easy generalizations about what it means to be a mother in uncertain neoliberal times." — Sarah Banet-Weiser, author of Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

"Julie A. Wilson and Emily Chivers Yochim provide a highly compelling commentary on the state of motherhood in the present moment, infused as it is with technologies and concerns about emotional and economic precarity. Making a strong (if depressing) case for the failure of the nuclear family project in the context of neoliberalism, their beautifully executed work helps us to think about labor and affect theory in new ways." — Brenda R. Weber, editor of Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and Gender on Transatlantic Reality Television


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Julie A. Wilson is Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Theatre at Allegheny College.

Emily Chivers Yochim is Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Theatre at Allegheny College and the author of Skate Life: Re-Imagining White Masculinity.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The Digital Mundane: Mothering, Media, and Precarity  1
1. Mother Loads: Why "Good" Mothers Are Anxious  31
2. Mamapreneurialism: Family Appreciation in the Digital Mundane  65
3. Digital Entanglements: Staying Happy in the Mamasphere  103
4. Individualized Solidarities: Privatizing Happiness Together  137
Conclusion. Socializing Happiness (or, Why We Wrote an Unhappy Book)  169
Afterword. Packets and Pockets  185
Notes  189
Bibliography  205
Index  213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6347-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6336-1
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