Mireille Lalancette (Ph.D.) is an associate professor in social communication at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (Canada). She holds a Ph.D. in communication from Université de Montréal. Her research interests include political communication, media, and representations, with a particular emphasis on gender framing and women issues. She is currently working on the transformations of political actors’ representations in the context of spectacularisation and personalisation in the media. She is also a member of the Réseau québécois en études féministes (RéQEF).
Patricia Germain (Ph.D., RN) is a pediatric nurse and an associate professor in nursing at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (Canada). She holds a master degree in nursing and a Ph.D. in applied human sciences. She worked for ten years as a clinical specialist nurse and coordinator of the international adoption clinic/ international health clinic at Ste-Justine’s Pediatric Hospital in Montreal (Quebec, Canada. She is involved in the research center of the child & the family (Centre d’études interdisciplinaires du développement de l’enfant et de la famille) and an associate researcher at Ste-Justine’s Hospital. Her research interest included child and family relations, family representations and family health.
This paper explores how motherhood is discursively constructed in Enfants Quebec and Today’s Parent, the two main parenting magazines in Quebec and Canada. Despite their name, parenting magazines are mainly written for mothers, who remain the primary target of advertisements and articles. Mirroring women’s magazines, they present perfect babies, smiling parents, a can-do philosophy, as well as ideals of perfection (Gill 2010). The pleasurable nature of these magazines is also coupled with a practical side, as they offer surviving skills for the struggling mothers in an «Age of Anxiety» (Warner 2005). Using a critical discourse analysis perspective, three key discursive repertoires emerged from the analysis of 68 issues published between January 2009 and March 2013: Performing a domestic motherhood, kid-ology, and pampered moms. Performing a domestic motherhood is based on a business-derived language, and offers life-simplifying tips for balancing life and work. The basic theme is that if you get organized you will succeed. Kid-ology is structured on experts’ and pseudo-experts’ discourses helping mothers cope with the challenges of raising and educating their kids. These articles generally focus on “dos and don’ts”, on “how to” do this and that, and on what you need to know to keep your child happy and safe. Finally, there is the pampered moms’ repertoire, which focuses on taking care of your body. This paper thus discusses how these repertories work together to offer a specific representation of motherhood, highlighting tensions and silences conveyed by these discourses.
What It Takes to Be a Good Mother: Representations of Motherhood in Two Canadian Parenting Magazines