Mothering as a Social Worker: The Gifts and the Tyranny


  • Laura Lewis


This autoethnography wanders into one academic social worker’s reflections on her doctoral training some twenty-five years previously and how her exposure to certain theories and literatures impacted her maternal thinking and mothering role. Through an analysis of gathered data from doctoral course syllabi and other documents of reflection, three areas of theoretical contribution and deep influence were identified as the primary influences that helped to shape and make sense of the author’s unfolding maternal and social work professional identities. The article describes and elaborates upon John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth’s work related to attachment theorizing and subsequent categorization. The anxieties identified in mothers who parent to these theoretical formulations are considered, along with the often impossible demands this theorizing makes upon mothers as they strive to embody the behaviors necessary to ensure a secure attachment bond. In contrast, the work of Jerome Kagan, Stella Chess, and Alexander Thomas that identifies an infant’s temperamental predispositions at birth challenges infant attachment as fostered exclusively within a maternal responsiveness and orients thinking towards infant temperamental predispositions that innately construct attachment relatedness in a  certain way, regardless of maternal responsiveness. These opposing nurture vs nature views are considered. Finally, the article considers the work of Jean Baker Miller and her contributions to understanding the forces of structural inequity at play that marginalize and devalue women’s maternal role as situated in the existing patriarchy of the twenty-first century. Miller’s work proves instrumental in validating the writer’s own experiences of maternal devaluing.




How to Cite

Lewis, L. (2022). Mothering as a Social Worker: The Gifts and the Tyranny. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 13(1). Retrieved from