The conundrum of motherhood: house helps and the mediated motherhood discourses in Kenya

Gladys Muasya
a:1:{s:5:"en_US";s:21:"St. Paul's University";}


The globalised media tend to influence the content of local and regional media. This study sought to find the nature of mediated mothering discourse in Kenya and the extent to which it promoted the hegemony of intense mothering discourse; vis-a-vis indigenous mothering discourses such as co-mothering found among the collectivistic cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. Most workingclass mothers employ caregivers – house helps to mind their children. A total of 71 stories from 2009 to 2022 related to mothering were collected from two leading newspapers in Kenya – Daily Nation and The Standard – which feature lifestyle issues. These stories were analysed using inductive coding and constant comparison to identify categories. Findings show that most of the discourses were the extent to which mothers were allowed to pursue personal ambitions in relation to the needs of their children (have-it-all), the level of delegation of core mother duties to the house helps, and the quality of caregiving that was associated with good mothers. There was no consensus on the level of delegation permitted as both extremes were highly criticised. Mothers were not yet ready to co-mother with the house helps – showing the hegemony of mediated intense mothering discourse.



  1. Arendell, T. (2000). Conceiving and investigating motherhood: The decade's scholarship. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4): 1192-1207.
  2. Arribas-Ayllon, M. & Walkerdine, V. (2017). Foucauldian discourse analysis. In Willig, C. & Stainton-Rogers, W. (eds). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology, 110-123. London: Sage.
  3. Bindley, K. (2011, August 22). Supermom at higher risk for depression: Study. Huffington Post. Available from:
  4. Borovska, V. (2018). Impact of motherhood on women’s identity. Annual of the Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, 42(1): 107-116.
  5. Collins, P.H. (1994). Shifting the center: Race, class, and feminist theorizing about motherhood. In Glenn. E.N., Chang, G., Rennie, L. & Forcey, L.R. (eds.). Mothering: Ideology, experience, and agency, 45-65. New York: Routledge.
  6. Crinion, C. (2013, June 12). What Sanderberg & Slaughter have in common. Huffington Post. Available from:
  7. Crowley, J.E. (2015). Unpacking the power of the mommy wars. Sociological Inquiry, 85(2): 217-238.
  8. Dan, V. & Raupp, J. (2018). A systematic review of frames in news reporting of health risks: Characteristics, construct consistency vs. name diversity, and the relationship of frames to framing functions. Health, Risk & Society, 20(5-6): 203-226.
  9. Elliot, R. (2015, February 13). Data on newspaper, magazine readership in Kenya. Available from:
  10. Entman, R.M. (1993). Framing: Towards clarification of a fractured paradigm. In McQuail, D. (ed). McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory, 390-397. London: Sage.
  11. Fairhurst, G. & Sarr, R. (1996). The art of framing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  12. Forcey, L.R. (1994). Feminist perspectives on mothering and peace. In In Glenn. E.N., Chang, G., Rennie, L. & Forcey, L.R. (eds.). Mothering: Ideology, experience, and agency, 355-375. New York: Routledge.
  13. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. New York: Harper Colophon.
  14. Hays, S. (1988). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  15. Horwitz, E. (2003). Mother’s resistance to the western dominant discourse on mothering. PhD dissertation, University of British Columbia.
  16. International Labour Organisation. (2011). Convention No. 189 and recommendations No. 201 concerning decent work for domestic workers. Available from:
  17. Johnston, D.D. & Swanson, D.H. (2006). Constructing the “good mother”: The experience of mothering ideologies by work status. Sex Roles, 54(7-8): 509-519.
  18. Jørgensen, M.W. & Phillips, L.J. (2002). Discourse analysis as theory and method. London: Sage.
  19. Kassis R, (2014, Dec 14). „Having it all” even when staying at home. Huffington Post. Available from:
  20. Laney, E.K., Hall, M.E.L., Anderson, T.L. & Willingham, M.M. (2015). Becoming a mother: The influence of motherhood on women's identity development. Identity, 15(2): 126-145.
  21. Light, P. (2013, April 19). Why 43% of women with children leave their jobs and how to get them back. The Atlantic. Available from
  22. Lupton, D. (2016). The use and value of digital media for information about pregnancy and early motherhood: a focus group study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 16(1): 1-10.
  23. Macdonald, C.L (1998). Manufacturing motherhood: The shadow work of nannies and au pairs. Qualitative Sociology, 21(1): 25-53.
  24. Mandi, C. (2012, April 14). The working woman must set her own pace. Daily Nation.
  25. Mathe, L. (2020). Political discourses on race and social inequalities through social media and live parliamentary debates in South Africa: A content analysis. Communicare: Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa, 39(2): 1-24.
  26. Muasya, G. (2014). The role of house helps in work–family balance of women employed in the formal sector in Kenya. In Mokomane, Z. (ed). Work–family interface in sub-Saharan Africa, 149-159. New York: Springer.
  27. Muasya, G. (2016). Work-family balance choices of women working in Kenyan universities. Sage Open (1): 1-12.
  28. Ngima, T. (2014, December 8). How to deal with “having it all” guilt. The Standard Newspaper.
  29. Njung’e, C. (2009, June, 6). Is it worth losing your family for a career? Daily Nation.
  30. Pedersen, S. (2016, November). The good, the bad and the “good enough” mother on the UK parenting forum Mumsnet. Women's Studies International Forum, 59: 32-38. Pergamon.
  31. Reese, S.D., Gandy, J. & Grant, A.E. (eds) (2001). Prologue – Framing public life: A bridging model for media research. In Framing public life, 23-48. London: Routledge.
  32. Robinson, G.S. (2014). Attitudes to motherhood and working mothers in South Africa. Insight from quantitative attitudinal data. Master’s thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  33. Schirch, L. (2012, September 7). “Having it all” myth: An addendum to Ann Marie Slaughter. Huffington Post. Available from:
  34. Semetko, H.A., & Valkenburg, P.M. (2000). Framing European politics: A content analysis of press and television news. Journal of Communication, 50(2), 93-109.
  35. Shaw, R.L. & Giles, D.C. (2009). Motherhood on ice? A media framing analysis of older mothers in the UK news. Psychology and Health, 24(2): 221-236.
  36. Slaughter, A. (2012). Why women still can’t have it all. The Atlantic. Available from:
  37. Steuter, E. & Wills, D. (2009). Discourses of dehumanization: Enemy construction and Canadian media complicity in the framing of the war on terror. Global Media Journal: Canadian Edition, 2(2): 7-24.
  38. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  39. Sutherland, J. (2010). Mothering, guilt and shame. Sociology Compass, 4(5): 310-321.
  40. Tsikata, D. (2009). Domestic work and domestic workers in Ghana: An overview of the legal regime and practice. Geneva: International Labour Organisation.
  41. Van Doorene, S. (2009). Narratives of motherhood: Voices of selected South African women. PhD dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand. Available from ref%20final%20revised.pdf?sequence=2
  42. Wadende, P.A., Fite, K. & Lasser, J. (2014). The Kenyan parent in changing times. In H. Selin (ed.), Parenting across cultures: Childrearing, motherhood and fatherhood in non-western cultures, 267-276. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
How to Cite
Muasya, G. (2023). The conundrum of motherhood: house helps and the mediated motherhood discourses in Kenya. Communicare: Journal for Communication Studies in Africa, 42(1), 39–51.

Send mail to Author

Send Cancel

Custom technologies based on your needs

  • Crossref
  • PubMed
  • Clarivate