The Maternal Metamorphosis: Becoming a mother in Australia
The 2021 Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture delivered by historian Dr Carla Pascoe Leahy from the University of Melbourne examines the changing cultural attitudes towards motherhood, changing theories of maternal subjectivity, and how mothers’ own experiences are remembered in oral history interviews.
The lecture asks what happens to a woman when she becomes a mother and considers whether this transition has become more challenging over the past 75 years.
Motherhood is often depicted as a problem in twenty-first century Australia. News media focus upon the costs of motherhood, including perinatal depression and anxiety, childcare expenses, workforce discrimination, and unequal domestic labour. But this rather impoverished and simplified view of mothering is not how mothers themselves describe their experiences.
This lecture will consider changing cultural attitudes towards motherhood, changing psychological theories of maternal subjectivity, and mothers’ own experiences, as remembered in oral history interviews. It will answer two questions of profound social importance: what happens to a woman when she becomes a mother, and has this transition become more challenging over the past 75 years?