Confidence and mastery in mothering occupations

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Odgers, Sorcha
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Occupational Therapy
Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology
Tokolahi, Ema
Thomas, Yvonne
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
well being
mothering occupations
Odgers, S. (2023). Confidence and mastery in mothering occupations (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Occupational Therapy). Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology
RESEARCH QUESTION Which mothering occupations are mothers of infants participating in when they notice feelings of confidence and mastery in their mothering abilities? ABSTRACT AIMS This study aimed to explore everyday mothering occupations that evoke feelings of confidence and mastery, with mothers positioned as experts of their experience. The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationships between occupation and positive wellbeing in mothers with infants. Long-term health and wellbeing begin with infancy, childhood, and childbearing years of the mother. Mothers’ feelings of success at their mothering role contributes to overall maternal wellbeing. Occupational therapy client centred practice requires therapists to understand the nature, performance and function of occupations in relation to the person and environment in which it is performed. Using an occupational therapy perspective, this study explored mothering occupations that engendered a sense of confidence and mastery in motherhood. METHOD A Delphi survey was used. This group facilitation technique elicits expert opinions by reaching consensus. The list of occupations was not intended to be comprehensive and all-encompassing for mothering. It was informed by mothering literature, compiled by the researcher, then added to by participants. Fifteen mothers with infants 12 to 18 months old were recruited, 8 added items to the mothering occupations list, and a total of 7 participants ranked the items in both Delphi surveys. Between survey rounds, participants were shown the overall collective group responses. They were asked to reflect on the knowledge of the group, and re-rank the list. RESULTS A high degree of consensus was reached between two survey ranking rounds to the extent that the top nine of 47 items did not change their ranked positions. Because consensus was increased between Delphi rounds, a list of the top mothering occupations for evoking feelings of confidence and mastery in mothering, as ranked by a panel of mothers, was developed. A notable finding from this study was that mothers ranked co-occupations and shared experiences with their infants more highly overall than occupations alone or involving others. Mothering occupations were found to be innumerable and subjective, with the mothers of the study identifying with a wide range of occupations. The most highly ranked mothering occupation for maternal confidence and mastery was ‘watching’ their baby. It was found that mothers value connecting with nature, and also that some mothering occupations may stay relevant across the life course. CONCLUSIONS The study was limited by a small sample size, however consensus increased between survey rounds for the top 15 mothering occupations that mothers felt evoked feelings of confidence and mastery in their mothering. The findings from this study could inform primary health professionals to facilitate conversations around wellbeing in motherhood. The knowledge of how occupation influences maternal confidence and mastery has implications for health and societal policy around how mothers can be supported to engage in co-occupations with their infants. Occupational therapists are uniquely positioned to promote such conversations and research because of the underlying client-centred values involved and the understanding of the positive impact occupation can have on health and role transition.
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