A demographic and social revolution has propelled most mothers and would-be mothers to join the paid labor force and establish committed work ties over the course of their lives. This irrefutable social shift has transformed the experience of motherhood and undermined mid-20th century assumptions that home and work are inherently separate, gendered spheres. Despite these vast social changes-or perhaps because of them the idea of a "working mother" remains highly contested. Work and family remain the two most prominent axes on which women's lives are structured, and equally clearly, they continue to be viewed as "oppositional" domains. Through a review of the burgeoning scholarship on motherhood, it considers how a work-family framework can expand our understanding of contemporary mothering and help explain and potentially resolve the contradictions in women's lives. This chapter examines contemporary variations in motherhood, with an eye to disentangling prevailing myths about past patterns from genuinely new developments. It considers some of the persisting theoretical debates about the nature, causes, and consequences of mothering practices and beliefs, asking how these debates frame our current understanding of contemporary motherhood. The gendered and cultural role of mothers and what it means to engage in "mothering," and caring are still often seen to be in direct conflict with earning. That women are penalized on the work and earning front for engaging in care work, and they are criticized for their care work when devoting too much time to work.
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