"Mothers as Candy Wrappers": Critical Infrastructure Supporting the Transition into Motherhood

Lauren Britton, Louise Barkhuus, Bryan Semaan

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The transition into motherhood is a complicated and often unsupported major life disruption. To alleviate mental health issues and to support identity re-negotiation, mothers are increasingly turning to online mothers’ groups, particularly private and secret Facebook groups; these can provide a complex system of social, emotional, and practical support for new mothers. In this paper we present findings from an exploratory interview study of how new mothers create, find, use, and participate in ICTs, specifically online mothers’ groups, to combat the lack of formal support systems by developing substitute networks. Utilizing a framework of critical infrastructures, we found that these online substitute networks were created by women, for women, in an effort to fill much needed social, political, and medical gaps that fail to see ‘woman and mother’ as a whole being, rather than simply as a ‘discarded candy wrapper’. Our study contributes to the growing literature on ICT use by mothers for supporting and negotiating new identities, by illustrating how these infrastructures can be re-designed and appropriated in use, for critical utilization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction : GROUP
Number of pages21
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication dateDec 2019
Article number232
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Motherhood transition
  • Online mothers' groups
  • Social support networks
  • Identity re-negotiation
  • ICT utilization


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