Research Article
Issue Date: May/June 2000
Published Online: May 01, 2000
Updated: April 30, 2020
The Orchestration of Occupation: The Dance of Mothers
Author Affiliations
  • Elizabeth A. Larson, PhD, OTR, is Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Kinesiology, Occupational Therapy Program, 2180 Medical Sciences Center, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Article Information
Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Mothering
Research Article   |   May 01, 2000
The Orchestration of Occupation: The Dance of Mothers
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May/June 2000, Vol. 54, 269-280.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May/June 2000, Vol. 54, 269-280.
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Objectives. This article describes the relationship of mothers’ orchestration of daily occupations, the specialized maternal work of parenting a child with a disability, and the mother’s subjective well-being.

Method. Mothers’ daily occupations and subjective well-being were studied using multiple in-depth interviews, participant observation of a day’s round of occupations, and scales of well-being. Data were treated to a recursive analysis, which included theoretical notes generated during transcriptions that identified important themes and additional points of inquiry, line-by-line coding of transcripts, and theoretical sorting of codes and regrouping, recoding. To account for patterns in the data, a relational analysis was conducted that included the generation of metaphors.

Results. Emergent findings of this analysis identified the mothers’ guiding occupational motif and eight processes of orchestration in their daily routines. The occupational motif, the embrace of paradox, directed the mother’s orchestration of daily occupations. The orchestration processes included planning, organizing, balancing, anticipating, interpreting, forecasting, perspective shifting, and meaning making. Examples illustrate the maternally driven and child-sensitive nature of these processes.

Conclusion. In their daily rounds, the mothers studied were attentive to the manner and method with which they interacted with their children to produce child-contingent occupations commensurate with their values of being a good mother. Using these orchestration processes, mothers made sense of their past, designed their present, and planned for their future within their daily occupational rounds for themselves and family members.