I have worked with two exceptional honors students over the past several years and thoroughly enjoyed mentoring the development of their research projects. Rebecca Hewitt completed a project in 2006 titled, "Motherhood and Formation: How Mothering Experiences Can Point Us To Justice" in which she interviewed local Presbyterian pastors who were also mothers of young children to examine how they understood the moral tasks of mothering. I am currently working with Breanna Detwiler on a project examining the contributions that community gardens make to building social capital in local communities. In this project, Bre has been a participant-observer at three local community gardens where she is documenting the contributions to social capital associated with each of these gardens in the North Carolina piedmont.
-Arts and Humanities scholars-
Abstract: Motherhood and Formation: How Mothering Experiences Can Point Us To Justice The goal of this research project is to examine ways in which women’s narratives and experience can be mined to help further ethical reflection on the idea of the social and spiritual task of mothering. Specifically, I use the experience of mothering to identify values that will help us reshape the workplace for the good of both men and women in order to allow them to be better parents, workers, and people of faith. The guiding principle of this study is that our systems of ethics tend toward abstractionism and instead our moral reasoning should be grounded in dialogue with women’s lived experience. With this assumption as a starting point, I stand in the tradition of a liberative method of ethics which finds its roots in the practical realities of the lives of those who are marginalized by society or social structures, in this instance, mothers. In order to explore the relationship between motherhood and social policy from the perspective of Christian social ethics, I began this research by interviewing a focus group of theologically trained mothers. I interviewed eight women from the Piedmont region of North Carolina who were ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and had children who were of elementary school age or younger. I asked these women questions about their self-identity, how they viewed the moral task of mothering, and what suggestions they could offer regarding change in political and religious structures. The research is divided into two sections. I begin by examining the women’s understanding of the moral formation of their children and the task of mothering, with particular emphasis on the values the women hope to instill in their children and the methods by which they did so. I then turn to examine the moral formation the women were experiencing themselves as they became mothers and how that formation affected their perspective on identity and relationships. More specifically, I identify how mothering changed the theology and identity of clergy mothers. I conclude by suggesting ways that the community of the church can be an agent in advocating for the types of changes needed to support mothers and in being a support system itself for the moral and spiritual well-being of women and their families. In particular, I focus on childcare, church structures, and workplace change.
Working with Dr. Peters on my honors thesis was the most challenging task I completed during my time at Elon. It developed my patience and my commitment to research, as the project required my focus for a year and a half. This was the first time that I took a research draft and revised it over and over and over again. The result still amazes me. As I look back on the work that I produced, I find it hard to believe that I wrote the entire thing. It has given me a sense of accomplishment like none other and it also gave me a desire to continue to do research in the future. It has given me confidence that I will be prepared for doing graduate level work at Divinity School.