Juggling motherhood and sport: A qualitative study of the negotiation of competitive recreational athlete mother identities

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Abstract

Objectives:

Qualitative research on physically active mothers has shown that recreational sport allows for personal, social and cultural barriers to be renegotiated in ways that facilitate well-being and sport participation. The purpose of this study was to extend this understanding by examining competitive recreational athlete mothers' negotiation of sport training and competition in relation to their identities.

Design:

A qualitative approach grounded in social constructionism and discursive psychology was used to theorize athlete mother identities as constructed within nuanced cultural discourses, with multiple meanings and effects (e.g., psychological, social, behavioural) on women's psychological, training and parental experiences.

Method:

An interpretive thematic analysis (TA) was conducted on in-depth interviews with 7 North American recreational athlete mothers, who train to compete in national and/or international sport competitions.

Results:

A central theme constructed multiple meanings of motherhood and athletic experiences: juggling motherhood and sport. The meanings of motherhood and sport were multiple and fluid depending on three sub-themes, which were used as strategies to negotiate identities as athletes and mothers: 1. adjustment of training and competition; 2. support as multifaceted and negotiated; and 3. reciprocity of motherhood and sport. These themes highlight the nuanced ways in which juggling motherhood and sport are negotiated in relation to socially constructed identities, in constraining and emancipative ways.

Conclusions:

This study extends research on the social construction of cultural identities in sport psychology and work on athlete mother identities into competitive recreational athletics.

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