Silent stories and puzzled paradigms: A reflexive autoethnography of identity, motherhood, and dominant discourse

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Identity development continues across the lifespan, revisited as transitions spark new beliefs and life experiences demand new ways of being; a re-examination of old patterns, beliefs, relationships, and visions of what one might become (Bogaerts et al., 2019; Meca et al., 2020; Piotrowski, 2020). The purpose of this research is to explore the concept of self and identity for a mother when the maternal role includes the discrepant identity exploration of adolescent offspring. Maternal identity is an amalgamation of roles, responsibilities, and attitudes that can be disrupted when sudden changes or challenges exceed an individual’s perceived coping and reasoning skills (Piotrowski, 2020; Praharso et al., 2017; Stanley & Stanley, 2017). These disruptions often become moments of crisis; turning points where group membership is questioned and previously held beliefs and patterns of behavior are re-considered in exchange for new ways of thinking, being, believing, and becoming (Bogaerts et al., 2019; Fossas, 2019; Praharso et al., 2017). Data for this autoethnographic research are gathered from artifacts dated between 2015-2021; drawn from personal journal entries, yoga class notes, voice recorded notes, and hand drawn doodles. Revisiting one’s identity, middle stage mothers are at increased risk of internalizing responsibility, resulting in a cycle of shame and self-blame that Through reflection or rumination, an individual will craft a storied narrative of self and other that provides the backdrop for the event related outcomes that pave the path to stagnation or transformative meaning making that impacts mental health, relational satisfaction, well-being, and one’s sense of self (Bogaerts et al., 2019; Hardy et al., 2017; Meca et al., 2020; van Halen et al, 2020). Results from this study illustrate that, both, the significant and mundane moments may result in seismic and subtle paradigm shifts that can wreak havoc on middle-stage maternal identity and domain specific distress (Li et al., 2019; Luthar & Ciciolla, 2015; Luthar, 2016; Meca et al., 2020). Offering an analysis of the lived experience of self and identity, this research concludes with implications for help professionals and future research.

Motherhood, Identity, Dominant discourse, Autoethnography