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Motherhood versus patienthood: a conflict of identities

Abstract

This paper examines a thread that runs through my memoir of illness: the “shock” of becoming a patient and finding that this new identity, “patienthood”, conflicts with the specific, culturally defined role of mother that I idealise as “motherhood”. I have taken four excerpts from my memoir and discuss them in relation to the way I constructed my intersectional and conflicting identities as mother and patient, both during the initial phase of my illness and in the act of writing about them afterwards. My conclusions echo those of many theorists: while there may be no elusive core self, we are each made up of many identities, many stories, all provisional on factors such as ethnicity, gender, or race, and all in a state of continuous flux in response to changing contexts over time. Furthermore, our identities are often shaped by, and are also shaping, that ethical question: how to lead the “good life”. It is all these dimensions that constitute the richness of individual “selfhood”.

  • identity
  • illness
  • patient
  • memoir
  • woman
  • learning

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