Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

14

Working mothers

MOTHER'S CHILDCARE 'UNSATISFACTORY' BECAUSE SHE WORKS

A judge has stirred up controversy over his refusal to certify as satisfactory a woman's arrangements for the care of her children on the sole ground that she is a working mother.

Judge Callman refused to grant a full certificate of satisfaction over the woman's childcare arrangements prior to her obtaining a decree nisi in her undefended divorce proceedings.

(Frances Gibb, The Times 13/3/89)

Employed mothers challenge some of the most fundamental beliefs about ideal family life: male-female gender role divisions, the exclusive and irreplaceable need of a child for its mother, the significance of childhood experiences to later life and so on. Science has been unable to come up with convincing arguments to keep mothers at home and financial necessity is increasingly dictating when women return to work after having children rather than whether they do so. Society remains ambivalent about whether it approves or disapproves. There is a general feeling that families should be financially self-reliant and if that means both parents, or a single parent alone, working, then so be it. But there are unresolved doubts about the effects on children-working mothers are blamed for neglecting their children, producing a generation of junk food and television addicts and delinquents, and for demoting the role of the housewife.

As with the previous chapters in this book it is interesting to note the difference between women and men in terms of labelling pathology: men are unfit if unemployed, women unfit if employed. (Unemployment benefit is only available to a father, not to a mother in a two-parent household.) Even when the working woman has a partner, she remains the one who is responsible for childcare arrangements both in practice and in the eyes of professionals and the state-women seeking adoption, prime care of children after divorce or fertility treatment are commonly expected to be stay-at-home women.

-225-

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Who's Fit to Be a Parent?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Parents on Trial 5
  • 1 - The State Versus Parents 7
  • 2 - Other People's Children 38
  • 3 - Parents Apart 63
  • 4 - Playing God 96
  • 5 - Key Themes from Part I 117
  • Part II - Parents on the Edge 129
  • 6 - Disabled Parents 133
  • 7 - Mentally Handicapped Parents 151
  • 8 - Drug Addicted Mothers 168
  • 9 - Gay Parents 177
  • 10 - Teenage Mothers 189
  • 11 - Older Mothers 197
  • 12 - Single Mothers 205
  • 13 - Lone Fathers 217
  • 14 - Working Mothers 225
  • 15 - Black Parents 239
  • 16 - Key Themes from Part II 261
  • Part III - The Job Description 269
  • 17 - The Ideal Model and the Actual Model of Fit Parenting 271
  • 18 - Implications of the Actual Model of Fit Parenting to Assessment 281
  • 19 - Looking Forward 300
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 309
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