Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Sociology


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Kirsten Dellinger

Second Advisor

John Sonnett

Third Advisor

Kirk Johnson

Relational Format



This thesis focuses on the foodwork that working mothers do at work and at home in order to support and provide for their families. It explores how women in low-paid food service jobs talk about and manage the work of feeding their families at home and customers at work in order to better understand the gender dynamics of this work and the conditions necessary to achieve “work-family justice”—structural solutions to work/family conflict. The study is based on qualitative semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 12 mothers who are between the ages of 24 and 43 from Mississippi and Arkansas. While some held multiple positions in the restaurant, the majority of my participants were servers. In terms of foodwork at work, women in this study were expected to perform in gendered ways while interacting with customers and co-workers. The “invisible labor” of foodwork included managing some customers’ assumptions about the status of this work and the legitimacy of their right to tell customers what to do (i.e., wear masks). In terms of foodwork at home, women in this study were “doing gender” by taking on the primary work of cooking in the home, regardless of whether they enjoyed it or not. In terms of COVID-19, mothers experienced exponential stress during Covid-19. This impacted “foodwork” differently at work and in the home. Lastly, in terms of work-family justice, it was found that women make up the majority of restaurant workers. While these interview participants experienced positive aspects of “like a family” support at work; they did not have access to policies that would help support work-family justice and appeared to lack information from supervisors or managers regarding existing workplace policies. The thesis concludes with a discussion of limitations, implications, and potential future studies.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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