Date of Award

Spring 4-15-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling & Psychology

First Advisor

Rakhshanda Saleem, PhD

Second Advisor

Peiwei Li, PhD

Third Advisor

Milena Batanova, PhD


The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the caregiving landscape, presenting distinct challenges for parents. While existing literature highlights the considerable increase in parenting stress and burnout during this period (Griffith et al., 2022), it also foregrounds the indispensable and often invisible labor of mothering¾emphasizing the disproportionate burdens placed on mothers as they bridged gaps in societal infrastructure (O’Reilly & Green, 2021). Grounded in matricentric feminist theory, this qualitative study delves into the dominant ideologies and social constructs shaping normative motherhood as a framework for understanding maternal stress and resilience during a global health crisis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 mothers of school-age children living in the United States who provided retrospective accounts of the myriad challenges and sources of support they encountered during the pandemic. Findings from the study indicate that participants experienced significant shifts in caregiving responsibilities and amplified cognitive and emotional labor, which contributed to maternal stress and overwhelm. Furthermore, participant narratives emphasized how the pandemic prompted them to reflect on the value of social support and prioritize their own wellness through self-care and self-compassion. By examining the complex interplay of discourses in participant narratives using feminist relational discourse analysis (Thompson, 2018), this study offers insights into how ideologies related to intensive mothering and neoliberalism may have manifested and been challenged in the pandemic era, examining various discursive strategies, rhetorical patterns, and counter-narratives. Drawing upon feminist frameworks and the insights gleaned from this study, recommendations are put forth for future research, policy, and clinical practices.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Number of Pages