Sarah E. Mosseri (2019) Finding middle ground: the relationship between cultural schemas and working mothers’ work-family strategies, Community, Work & Family, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2019.1682968

All-consuming expectations and a limited policy framework require working parents in the United States to develop creative and resourceful approaches when managing work and family responsibilities. Previous research on work-family strategies demonstrates how the ‘trade-offs’ working parents make at home and at work are stratified by structural factors such as gender, life stage and access to resources. In this article, I argue that strategies are better conceptualized as a ‘buffet’ of options and that strategy selections are, in part, cultural decisions, embedded within symbolic landscapes that render certain options more accessible, appropriate or desirable than others. I use data from the 500 Family Study to test the association between working mothers’ socially structured moral and emotional commitments and the work-family strategies they employ. My findings demonstrate that cultural beliefs matter simultaneously with and sometimes over and beyond institutional and material resources and constraints. This article also highlights, through a process I term stigma coding, women’s ‘bounded agency’ in interpreting and aligning schemas and strategies. I conclude that these contributions offer a more complete picture of working mothers’ complex negotiations of work and family life.