Lone mothers commonly face social stigma alongside practical challenges in fulfilling both principal breadwinner and primary carer roles. This chapter draws on findings from qualitative research involving a sample of lone mothers in the north of England to discuss how they negotiate competing employment and parenting demands within a socio-political context characterized by “worker citizenship”. This model positions them firmly as workers while increased benefits conditionality is reinforced by media stereotypes that conflate lone motherhood with welfare dependency.
A comparative research design was developed to explore experiences of mothers in two nearby locations with contrasting socio-economic profiles using a Bourdieusian approach to class analysis. Factors affecting lone mothers’ subjective perceptions of a historically de-legitimated identity were investigated during semi-structured interviews with women in diverse situations.
The interviews revealed that participants across the sample viewed being in paid employment as the most significant factor in mitigating stigma. They emphasized their work orientation and saw this as an aspect of responsible parenting. Most mothers in the more affluent location used the cultural capital of educational qualifications to secure work that could be balanced with parenting. In contrast, most mothers in the deprived location expressed frustration at being unable to access jobs that are compatible with childcare and consequently felt stigmatized for claiming benefits.
The chapter is of value in illustrating the significance of avoiding stigma as a consideration in lone mothers’ deliberations on work/family interface. It also highlights the impact of class and location on lone mothers’ ability to balance employment with childcare.
Carroll, N. (2018), "Lone Mothers’ Negotiation of Competing Employment and Parenting Demands in the Contemporary British Context of “Worker Citizenship”", Blair, S.L. and Obradović, J. (Ed.) The Work-Family Interface: Spillover, Complications, and Challenges (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 13), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 39-59. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1530-353520180000013004
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