Working-class mothers' school involvement: A class-specific maternal ideal?

Einat Lavee, Orly Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent ideological shifts, along with budgeting constraints, have made parental involvement in the schooling process necessary. Such expectations have increased the toll on working-class mothers, who now have to assume responsibility in three time-consuming areas: child care at home, school involvement and labour market participation. In analysing how mothers deal with this threefold expectation, research has focused on class-specific maternal ideals and practices, but rarely directed systematic attention to how these concurrent expectations shape the maternal ideals they embrace. Moreover, few studies have examined how mothers' maternal ideals shape their employment interruptions. The current paper considers how working-class mothers rationalize the maternal ideals they embrace with regard to school involvement and examines how they negotiate them vis-à-vis other possible maternal ideals. Interviews of 48 Israeli low-income mothers reveal that educational success is consensually perceived as critical for maximizing life chances and that this understanding evolved from the gradual realization that school involvement through extensive mothering - where women rely on others to meet their children's schooling needs - must be replaced by school involvement through intensive mothering - namely, personal presence-based nurturing. We draw some implications relevant to the debate over class-based maternal ideals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-625
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review.


  • Class
  • Employment interruptions
  • Israel
  • Maternal ideals
  • School involvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Working-class mothers' school involvement: A class-specific maternal ideal?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this