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What makes a perfect transnational mom? Elite transnational mothering of high-achieving Korean students

Sun, August 11, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Sheraton New York, Floor: Lower Level, Union Square

Abstract

Drawing on in-depth, life-course interviews with 24 elite Korean transnational mothers whose children are studying at prestigious U.S. colleges, this article analyzes the impact of having a high-earning, socially-successful career on those mothers’ transnational motherhood. Stay-at-home mothers, who mostly opted out of wage work to prioritize motherhood, tended to feel proud of their extensive provision of care but undervalue their capacity of and authority in guiding their high-achieving children’s later education and career preparation abroad. Professional working mothers with successful careers and ample transnational resource, in contrast, were likely to feel entitled to deeply engage in their children’s both early and later transnational education. Despite difficulties of balancing demanding career and intensive motherhood, employed mothers tended to internalize an ideal of the “perfect mother” and willingly aim for it. These findings show that the intersectional power of gender and class–occupational status and (transnational) education in particular–largely shapes elite mothers’ transnational parenting, as both an activity and an identity.

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