In the Italian social context difficulties in remaining in the labor market characterizes working mothers, leading them sometimes to resign from their jobs. The aim of this research is to explore narratives of those women dropping out of the workforce during pregnancy and soon after childbirth and their experiences in these circumstances. The study analysed 30 interviews with working mothers with an average age of 35.4 years, living in Naples, Italy, who “spontaneously” left their jobs. Grounded Theory Methodology allowed a deeper understanding of these women’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The content of the interviews was categorized into 4 macro-areas: (1) The role of the family and of the working contexts, (2) Mothering and caregiving (3) Identity conflicts, and (4) The consequences of resignation. A sense of helplessness towards fulfilling maternal expectations, role assignments, and employers’ requests ultimately led to the individuals’ response to the requirements of motherhood. The narratives highlighted how respondents feel powerless and oppressed by the burden of guilt and feelings of ambivalence towards both work and motherhood and how all these subjective feelings were supported and had been induced by external social factors (discriminatory business strategies, organizational time management, lack of support services, familial cultural models idealizing maternity).


voluntary resignation, mothering, gender roles’ internalization, family-work balance, qualitative research

Author Bio(s)

Valentina Manna is a psychologist with a Ph.D. in Gender Studies. Her main area of research interest is focused on the reconciliation of work and family for women. Please direct correspondence to valentina.manna@yahoo.it.

Fortuna Procentese is an associated professor at University of Studies Naples, Federico II, Italy. Her studies dealt with family and work balance, particularly organizational measures in the workplace. Please direct correspondence to fortuna.procentese@unina.it.

Immacolata Di Napoli, Ph.D., is a research fellow at University of Studies of Naples, Federico II, Italy. She is interested in individual wellbeing and in supportive and trusted territorial community for individual and family wellbeing. Please direct correspondence to immacolata.dinapoli@unina.it.

Caterina Arcidiacono is a full professor at University of Studies Naples, Federico II, Italy. Her studies are focused on women condition in family life. She dedicated her research studies to women’s wellbeing. Please direct correspondence to Caterina.arcidiacono@unina.it.

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