Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Changing Motherhood and the Shifting Social Networks-of-Care within Black Families in the Post-Apartheid South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Changing Motherhood and the Shifting Social Networks-of-Care within Black Families in the Post-Apartheid South Africa

Article excerpt

Intensive mothering, gender, intersectionality, patriarchy, mobile society, cohesive society, work-family reconciliation Mothering in South Africa has been influenced by several factors related to its transition from apartheid to a democracy. The transition has led to many other shifts within societal and state institutions. Important to this study is the resultant mobility of racial, economic, class, workplace and family structures and the influence thereof on parenting and the domestic division of labour. For instance, the economic, educational and employment advancement of Black South Africans has led to the rise of the black middle-class (Southhall, 2004; Seekings and Nattrass, 2005; Leamaster and Subraminiam, 2015); their relocation from black working to middle-class residential areas (Southhall, 2004; Seekings, and Nattrass, 2005; Kalule-Sabiti et al, 2007; Amoateng, 2007). Consequently the rise of black middle-class families has resulted in 'residential differentiation' as well as the increasing nucleation of black families alongside the continuing importance of extended family networks. Workplace transformation, the introduction of gender equality policies, is considered to be one of the major influential factors that have contributed to changing attitudes, normative expectations and the practice mothering (Karlsson, 2010). Yet, much literature suggests that parenting practice, including the division of labour, within most black African families has not seen any significant change (Chobokoane and Budlender, 2002/4; Charmes, 2006; Moorosi, 2007; Maqubela, 2013).

During second-wave feminism, 'good mothering' has been defined in Western terms as a hetero-normative practice, performed within the confines of the domestic realm, in a heterosexual, nuclear and middle-class family, where a father earns enough to provide for his family (Firestone, 1972; Eisenstein, 1981; Rich, 1986, O'Reilly, 2004). This has rendered paid work as unnecessary for a mother. This kind of mothering practice has been regarded as the only "official and only meaning of motherhood, marginalizing and rendering illegitimate alternative practices of mothering [...]" (O'Reilly (2004:7). The above description portrays a mother as a 'stay at home' full-time mother and the mothering practice as solely a responsibility of the social or biological mother. This particular 'ideal' mothering practice has also been dominating popular media representations, academic discourse, political and legal doctrine (Glenn, 1994). Women seem to have little or no power to challenge this mothering ideology (O'Reilly, 2004).

African Americans, Third-World, African as well as many white feminist authors have fiercely challenged second-wave feminists' 'ethnocentric' theorizations on mothering, under the auspices of 'universal sisterhood', on the basis that they were developed from the one-sided perspective (of white, middle-class women) thus providing a limited and biased representation of motherhood. African feminists decried the Western portrayal of motherhood from the lens of women oppression, where being a mother is associated with subordination and powerlessness, while being 'childfree', on the part of the father, with 'emancipation' (Oyewumi, 2016). Fathers, because of their 'patriarchal privilege' are considered 'emancipated' because of their freedom from childcare (Oyewumi, 2016). However, a 'childfree' woman is not associated with emancipation but is subjected to social scrutiny and stigmatization (Mamabolo, et al. 2009; Nall, 2014). African theorizations envisage motherhood beyond just the context of caring, but also as embedded within notions of well-being and prosperity of the future generations. This way mothers are portrayed as visionaries. Moreover, as Oyewumi (2016) rightly states, motherhood also embodies the notion of "normative values and humanistic ideologies that embrace notion of preservation of the past, present and future generations... the promotion of equality, peace and justice" (Oyewumi, 2016: 219). …

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