Toronto Metropolitan University

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"Don't Look Down on Me Because I Have One": Young Mothers Empowered in a Context of Support

journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-17, 15:27 authored by Rachel BermanRachel Berman, Susan Silver, Sue Wilson

In this paper we discuss how a group of young mothers, some married or common-law and some single, who were participants in a focus group that was part of a larger project on participation in community-based child and family programs, engage in empowered mothering by resisting the discourse that "a young mother is a social problem." This discourse includes the components "A baby having a baby" and "A young mum=poverty=a bad mum." These young mothers describe their parents' group as a context that fosters a sense of belonging, and feelings of empowerment. These young mothers are able to resist this discourse in a context of support, a context that is vital for these, and other, young mothers. Virtually all mothers are subject to the ideology of what it is to be a "good mother" (Ruddick, 2002). In North America this can include being "self-sac-rificing, cheerful and loving" (Middleton, 2006: 73). Recent writings about mothering reject this limited discourse and offer other possibilities, or ways of constructing, what it is to be a "good mother." The alternative of "empowered mothering" is one such example (O'Reilly, 2004) and involves mothers drawing upon their agency, autonomy, authenticity, and authority. While this discourse may be a good fit for some mothers, Amy Middleton (2006) cautions that not all mothers can easily take up empowered mother-ing. This may be especially true for those women mothering under duress whereby social, financial and relational issues may make this kind of mother-ing difficult if not impossible; "…women mothering under duress are often subject to the gaze of social support systems who monitor and regulate their mothering…" (74). 




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    Early Childhood Studies


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