Paid Leaves as Buffer Zones: Social Policies and Work-Life Balance among Canadian Mothers




Christopher, Karen

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Texas State University, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies


In this article, I use in-depth interviews with 26 Canadian mothers to explore their accounts of paid leaves and work-life balance. Drawing from a theoretical framework that emphasizes the structural, cultural, and interactional influences on mothers' experiences, I find that among higher-income mothers, paid leaves serve as "buffer zones" in two ways: they postpone the typical conflict between paid and unpaid work, and they assuage the guilt associated with employment under an intensive mothering ideology. However, low-income and non-citizen mothers have less access to the "buffer zones" of paid leaves, and mothers' reports of work-life balance vary considerably by social class after paid leaves end. Among this non-representative sample, higher-income mothers report the most work-life balance. The paper ends with the implications of this research for the policy and work-life balance literatures.



paid leave, work-life balance, motherhood, employment, social policy, intensive mothering


Christopher, K. (2015). Paid leaves as buffer zones: Social policies and work-life balance among Canadian mothers. <i>Journal of Research on Women and Gender, 6</i>(1), pp. 24-39.


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