Heading Home

Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality

Shani Orgad

Columbia University Press

Heading Home

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Pub Date: January 2019

ISBN: 9780231184724

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: January 2019

ISBN: 9780231545631

304 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Heading Home

Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality

Shani Orgad

Columbia University Press

Women in today’s advanced capitalist societies are encouraged to “lean in.” The media and government champion women’s empowerment. In a cultural climate where women can seemingly have it all, why do so many successful professional women—lawyers, financial managers, teachers, engineers, and others—give up their careers after having children and become stay-at-home mothers? How do they feel about their decision and what do their stories tell us about contemporary society?

Heading Home reveals the stark gap between the promise of gender equality and women’s experience of continued injustice. Shani Orgad draws on in-depth, personal, and profoundly ambivalent interviews with highly educated London women who left paid employment to take care of their children while their husbands continued to work in high-powered jobs. Despite identifying the structural forces that maintain gender inequality, these women still struggle to articulate their decisions outside the narrow cultural ideals that devalue motherhood and individualize success and failure. Orgad juxtaposes these stories with media and policy depictions of women, work, and family, detailing how—even as their experiences fly in the face of fantasies of work-life balance and marriage as an egalitarian partnership—these women continue to interpret and judge themselves according to the ideals that are failing them. Rather than calling for women to transform their feelings and behavior, Heading Home argues that we must unmute and amplify women’s desire, disappointment, and rage, and demand social infrastructure that will bring about long-overdue equality both at work and at home.
This book tells a story about sacrificing career for family that resonates far beyond the lives of the women in London Shani Orgad has interviewed. Orgad makes a powerful argument about the denials women experience, precisely because the author does not rant. She is a gifted explorer of adulthood in all its promises, twists, and disappointments. Shani Orgad is one of the finest sociologists of her generation. Richard Sennett, author of The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism
Heading Home is a wonderfully researched and written book, highly engaging, and on a hugely important topic. Orgad’s interviews highlight very meaningful themes: the fact that oppression can be experienced alongside privilege; that structural inequality masks what are perceived as personal choices; and how the public discourses and media representations of ‘choice’ shape the self-identity of women who in fact did not have much of a choice. A great accomplishment! Dafna Lemish, Rutgers University
In this rich and compelling book, Shani Orgad persuasively argues for the power of cultural forces, alongside toxic workplace structures and flimsy public policies, to block pathways, shrink selves, and stifle rage among accomplished, highly-educated women who sacrificed careers as they headed home to care for young children. She beautifully weaves the sometimes-wrenching stories of mothers with incisive analysis demarcating the unique predicament of these mothers, who find it difficult to articulate return pathways to the work world despite the celebratory and contradictory culture of mompreneurs and the confidence fantasy. Brilliant! Melissa A. Milkie, University of Toronto
Preface and Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Introduction
Part I: Heading Home: Forced Choices
1. Choice and Confidence Culture/Toxic Work Culture
2. The Balanced Woman/Unequal Homes
Part II: Heading the Home: The Personal Consequences of Forced Choices
3. Cupcake Mom/Family CEO
4. Aberrant Mothers/Captive Wives
Part III: Heading Where? Curbed Desires
5. The Mompreneur/Inarticulate Desire
6. Inevitable Change/Invisible Chains
Conclusion: Impatience
Appendix 1: Interviewees’ Key Characteristics
Appendix 2: List of Media and Policy Representations
Appendix 3: Study Methodology
Appendix 4: Characteristics of UK Stay-at-Home Mothers
Notes
Index

About the Author

Shani Orgad is associate professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the author of Storytelling Online: Talking Breast Cancer on the Internet (2005), Media Representation and the Global Imagination (2012), and Caring in Crisis? Humanitarianism, the Public and NGOs (2017, with Bruna Seu).