Gillian Anderson, Sylvie Lafreniere, Whitney Wood


Gillian Anderson, PhD

Gillian is a mother, professor and Chair of the Sociology Department, Vancouver Island University (VIU). Her research and teaching focuses on gender and familial relations, mothering, mother-work and the sociology of home. She is co-editor of Sociology of Home: Belonging, Community and Place in the Canadian Context (2016) published by Canadian Scholars Press International (CSPI). Recently, she coauthored with Sylvie Lafrenière, “’Who Cares?’ Women’s and Mothers’ Employment in Caring Industries during the First Wave of COVID-19” that appeared in a collection Mothers, Mothering and COVID-19: Dispatches from a Pandemic (2021) published by Demeter Press.

Dr. Sylvie Lafrenière

Sylvie is a Professor and researcher with the Sociology Department and a Curriculum Teaching and Learning Specialist at Vancouver Island University. Along with her current study on mothers’ experiences during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sylvie is a researcher with the Canadian Mountain Network ( and a member of the Editorial Board of the academic journal Nouvelles perspectives en sciences sociales (NPSS). Sylvie’s experience and research interests are centered around quantitative analysis, culture and media, and communication theory. Her teaching focuses on incorporating lived experiences and developing interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities for students.Bio

Whitney Wood, PhD

Whitney is a historian of maternity, health, and medicine in nineteenth and twentieth century Canada. As Canada Research Chair in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health at Vancouver Island University, her research focuses on the ways in which gender, race, and class have historically intersected to shape persistent healthcare inequities. Her work has appeared in Social History of Medicine, BMJ: Medical Humanities, and the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, in addition to a number of edited collections.


While studies on the impact of the COVID pandemic on mothers’ mental health have started to garner attention, much of the reporting emphasizes (and for good reason) the negative impact it has had on mothers. Our research lends support to existing studies by focusing on mothers’ feelings about their caregiving labour and responsibilities. Here, in particular, we highlight the impact the pandemic has had on the mental well-being of mothers who may be neither “flourishing” nor “struggling”, but are situated in a liminal or in between space or mood – in short, those mothers who may be “languishing” (Keyes 2002) as the pandemic lingers on. During the height of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (November 2020 to February 2021), we surveyed 758 mothers from Vancouver Island asking about their mothering experiences, feelings about caregiving responsibilities and their overall satisfaction with work-family balance. Our quantitative and qualitative analyses reveal that very few mothers who participated in the survey were flourishing, more than half were struggling, and over a third were languishing. In this paper, we take a closer look at their individual narratives to counter both historical and enduring dismissals of maternal mental health issues, and underscore the need for societal and structural changes to foster mothers’ well-being during and beyond our current pandemic moment.

Languishing: The Impact of COVID-19 on Maternal Well-Being

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