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‘I feel so tired I could sleep for days’: discourse, gender and working parents in the UK

Yarwood, Gemma Anne (2014) ‘I feel so tired I could sleep for days’: discourse, gender and working parents in the UK. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Situated in early twenty-first century UK, I critically review the work-family reconciliation policy landscape to illuminate embedded gendered discourses and practices of caring and working. I critically examine the historical, social and cultural context of these gendered working and caring practices. Drawing on semi-structured qualitative interviews with fourteen working parents (nine mothers and five fathers), with children under 5 years old, I adopt a discourse analysis approach to consider both the performative aspects of their interview talk and the influence of wider discourses of caring and working. The thesis culminates in the development of knowledge and understanding of the intricate constitutive network of, the individual parent, the caring and working practices in which they engage, the social structure within which they live and the discourses which frame these. Drawing on large scale studies of the participation of mothers and fathers in care and employment, this thesis responds to a need for research which connects the complex relationship of caring and working discourses and practices at the macrolevel of UK society and the micro-level of individual working parents’ talk. To do this I analyse data from semi-structured interviews with fourteen working parents. In these analytical chapters, I focus on the discourse practices and discourse resources the working parents mobilised to position themselves within caring and working discourses. This thesis contributes to knowledge and understanding of gender, discourse and working parents’ talk using a sophisticated blended approach to discourse analysis. Additionally, having become a first-time mother during this study, I reflexively detail how this presented me with a unique position of knowledge, understanding and experience as a full-time working mother and researcher. To summarise, I connect contemporary UK work-family reconciliation policy, feminist scholarship and empirical discourse analysis of working parents’ interview talk to reveal ways in which discourses of working and caring are inextricably linked both in language performance in working parents’ interview talk and wider work-family reconciliation policy discourses in early twenty-first century UK.

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