Good Enough Mothering? Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood

By Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva | Go to book overview

Introduction

Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva

Mothering has long occupied a central place in debates about women’s positions in society. Feminist perspectives have asserted that motherhood and mothering are not natural for women but that they are historically, culturally and socially constructed. Building on these assumptions, this volume considers recent debates on lone motherhood by focusing on the links between married and unmarried motherhood in historical and cross-national contexts, as well as on policies regarding women’s employment, the care of children and ideologies of the family.

The late 1980s and the early 1990s have witnessed an increase in lone motherhood. In Britain, in 1992, there were between one in five and one in six dependent children living in a one-parent family (National Council for One Parent Family, Annual Report 1993-94).1 In the United States it was estimated that by the time they reach the age of eighteen, at least 50 per cent of children and youth will have spent some time in a lone-parent home (American Research Council 1989). Over 90 per cent of lone parents are mothers. Together with this apparently increased ‘normality’ of lone motherhood, a good deal of disagreement has also emerged over the effects of lone mothering on children, and of the costs of lone motherhood to the budget of the state. The heated debate in Britain in the 1990s stimulated this exploration of the historical roots of the problem, and its comparative national and cultural basis. While the contributors to this volume do not all agree with each other’s positions, the contributions offer complementary accounts and point to the difficulties of establishing a fully coherent feminist perspective on mothering in general and on lone mothering in particular.

Lone motherhood has recently been discussed in association with women’s independence and gender equality. Do women have the right

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