A Mother's Work


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How Feminism, the Market, and Policy Shape Family Life

Neil Gilbert

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A fresh perspective on the struggle to balance work and family life

The question of how best to combine work and family life has led to lively debates in recent years. Both a lifestyle and a policy issue, it has been addressed psychologically, socially, and economically, and conclusions have been hotly contested. But as Neil Gilbert shows in this penetrating and provocative book, we haven’t looked closely enough at how and why these questions are framed, or who benefits from the proposed answers.

A Mother’s Work takes a hard look at the unprecedented rise in childlessness, along with the outsourcing of family care and household production, which have helped to alter family life since the 1960s. It challenges the conventional view on how to balance motherhood and employment, and examines how the choices women make are influenced by the culture of capitalism, feminist expectations, and the social policies of the welfare state. Gilbert argues that while the market ignores the essential value of a mother’s work, prevailing norms about the social benefits of work have been overvalued by elites whose opportunities and circumstances little resemble those of most working- and middle-class mothers. And the policies that have been crafted too often seem friendlier to the market than to the family. Gilbert ends his discussion by looking at the issue internationally, and he makes the case for reframing the debate to include a wider range of social values and public benefits that present more options for managing work and family responsibilities.

Neil Gilbert is Milton and Gertrude Chernin Professor of Social Welfare and Social Services at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including Welfare Justice and his writing on public policy issues has appeared in Commentary, Society, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Orinda, CA.

"An excellent book, well written and accessible, controversial and careful. Gilbert does a terrific job of looking beneath the data to consider what they really tell us."—Anne Alstott, Yale Law School, author of No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents

“A compelling, objective study by one of America’s leading public intellectuals, this book should  trigger a serious debate about what is in the best interests of children.”—David Popenoe, Rutgers University, author of Life without Father 

"A cogent case for how capitalism, feminism, and government policies have tended to undermine motherhood. An important, broadly conceived synthesis."—Mary Ann Mason, author of Mothers on the Fast Track

"A groundbreaking book, A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life, reconsiders traditional views on motherhood. Through his examination of the average middle class mom, Gilbert provides cutting edge analysis of a mother’s value in the market economy."—Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Off-Ramps and On Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy


"[In this book] Gilbert examines how fertility, maternal employment, child care, and work policies interact to affect each other within a context that still places the needs of the workplace over the needs of the family, and he does so through a feminist lens. . . . Gilbert discusses the links accurately, well, and with minimal statistical detail, making the book readable by many who can benefit from it, even if they do not have a background in statistics. . . . Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice 

"Gilbert offers a thought-provoking analysis and policy response to an issue of critical importance."--Cheryl A. Hyde, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
ISBN: 9780300164619
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
240 pages, 5 3/16 x 8 1/16
6 b/w illus.
Welfare Justice

Restoring Social Equity

Neil Gilbert

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