“It Just Happened”: How Motherwork is Learned and Experienced by Canadian Stepmothers in an Online Support Group

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Careless, Erin Jennifer
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This doctoral dissertation study explores the ways in which Canadian stepmothers learn and experience “motherwork” through the negotiation of their role and their participation in an online support group. Life history interviews informed by literature around adult learning, motherwork, and stepmothering pointed to several sites and processes of learning and the factors impacting this learning which is explored as a digital community of practice. The public and private negotiation of motherwork as informed by traditional gender roles, and the Western ideology of mothering has a significant impact on role negotiation for stepmothers – women who are involved in the care of children not biologically their own. The goals of this study are to explore the experience of stepmothering from an adult learning perspective, to question and challenge the impact of traditional gender roles and mothering ideology for diverse families, and to explore the role of modern technologies (online support groups in particular) on the negotiation of traditional caring roles for stepmothers in Canada. This study expands the literature around adult learning, motherwork, stepmothering, and digital communities of practice.
Stepmother, motherwork, adult learning, gender, communities of practice.