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Mother’s Day is Sunday: UW–Madison experts available

May 9, 2024

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12. Experts from UW–Madison are available to discuss the state of motherhood, questions of gender balance within families and what the day means to different people.

Thank a hard-working mom today

Flowers for Mother’s Day make a nice gift, but lending a hand with housework might be even better.  Despite improvements, decades of sociological research shows that women in different-gender couples perform most housework and childcare, even when both partners are employed.

But what counts as housework? Allison Daminger, an assistant professor in sociology, has researched this drawing upon 170 interviews with members of different- and same-gender couples to identify and define “cognitive labor” as the work of anticipating household needs, identifying options for meeting those needs, deciding among the options and monitoring the results. Such work is highly gendered, with women in different-gender couples doing more cognitive work overall — and more of the most invisible and least powerful forms of such work in particular.

Daminger uses the case of cognitive labor to explore the question of why and how gender inequality persists, even as support for egalitarianism continues to grow.

Contact: Allison Daminger,

Women as America’s safety net

Jessica Calarco, an associate professor of sociology, is an expert on inequalities in family life, education, and health decision-making, with a focus on how institutions and policies amplify inequalities in these domains. “Holding It Together: How Women Became America’s Safety Net,” her forthcoming book out June 4, draws on five years of research in which Calarco surveyed more than 4,000 parents and conducted more than 400 hours of interviews. Tracing present-day policies back to their roots, Calarco reveals a systematic agreement to dismantle our country’s social safety net and persuade citizens to accept precarity while women bear the brunt. She leads us to see women’s labor as the reason we’ve gone so long without the support systems that our peer nations take for granted, and how women’s work maintains the illusion that we don’t need a net.

Contact: Jessica Calarco,

When Mother’s Day is difficult

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching, and many people are considering how best to show their appreciation for everything their mothers have done for them. Unfortunately, there are many people who suffer rather than celebrate on this day.

If you had a mother who did not know how to give unconditional love and empathic nurturing, if your mother is no longer in your life, or if you lost a child or are childless, then Mother’s Day can be a trigger for emotional distress and painful memories. Reframing the focus of this holiday can be an effective way to celebrate all the positive attributes of motherhood you may not have experienced yourself as a child or missed out on as an adult.

Shilagh Mirgain, a distinguished health psychologist at UW Health, can discuss coping strategies if Mother’s Day brings you disappointment, pain, a sense of loss, or sad memories. Regardless of your past experiences, Mirgain says, Mother’s Day is a good opportunity to celebrate all the women who bring beauty into your world and who provide unconditional love, support, and understanding.

Contact: Shilagh Mirgain,

More experts on news and current events can be found on the UW–Madison Experts Database.


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