Social support for mothers in illness: A multifaceted phenomenon

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Contemporary Nurse, 2011, 40 (1)
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Background: Many women privilege the mothering role over other areas of their lives, and for ill women, it can be difficult to relinquish maternal responsibility. Not being able to mother in their usual way can have consequences for women's wellbeing and view of themselves as 'good' mothers. Method: In this study, twenty-seven mothers of dependent children were interviewed about their experiences of illness, and the social support they received. Results: Despite their illnesses, participants in this study continued to feel they were primarily responsible for the wellbeing and care of their children, and were distressed if they were unable to adequately fulfil the primary carer role. As participants sometimes found it difficult to care for their children, help with childcare emerged as an important element of social support. Seeking assistance with care for children revealed a tension between support that was accessible and support that was acceptable. Conclusion: Mothering while ill is difficult and women facing illness may need encouragement to accept help to continue to meet their maternal responsibilities. Nurses are in an excellent position to encourage women to identify and draw upon sources of support to assist them in maintaining their mothering role while ill.
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