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Reordering Motherhood and Employment: Mobilising ‘Mums Everywhere’ during Covid-19

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>9/05/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Management
Publication StatusAccepted/In press
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This paper explores the impact of the ‘mobilisation’ of employed mothers by the UK government to home-school and care for children while performing paid work at home, in order to limit Covid-19 transmission. Drawing upon actor-network theory (ANT), we extend John Law’s (1994) concept ‘modes of ordering’ (or strategic shifts in response to change when power relations are unequal) to illuminate how employed mothers’ networks were reordered. Through a netnographic qualitative study we observe how they re-ordered personal and
local networks to combine homeworking, home-schooling, and childcare. We learn how, when mothers’ usual networks broke down, they employed three novel modes of reordering: retentive, retrogressive, and reformative. These modes capture the complex relationships between work and family – an area of concern that has previously received limited attention in relation to actor networks. Our findings reveal the gendered nature of the mandatory imposition of home working during the pandemic. Through developing Law’s modes of ordering, we demonstrate the potential of actor-network theory to understand the impact on mothers of homeworking and highlight important practical contributions for organisations and governments.