Mothering in Marginalized Contexts: Narratives of Women Who Mother In and Through Domestic Violence

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Price: $34.95

Page Count: 294

Publication Date: February 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77258-011-2

This book provides a rare and in-depth examination of the narratives, experiences, and lived realities of abused mothers—a group of women who, despite being the victims, are often criticized, vilified, and stigmatized for failing to meet dominant ideologies of what a “good mother” is/should be, because they have lived and mothered in domestic abuse relationships.  Based on a qualitative research study conducted with 29 abused mothers residing in abused women’s shelters in Calgary, Alberta, this book highlights the ways that these mothers experience the dominant ideology of intensive mothering, negotiate the resulting discourses of the “good” and the “bad” mother, and ultimately find ways to exercise agency, resistance, and empowerment in and through their mothering. This book discusses how abused mothers engage in empowered mothering by constructing valued, fortified, and liberating identities for themselves as mothers in the face of an ideology of intensive mothering that delegitimizes and subjugates them.  These mothers are not passive victims, but rather are active agents who resist and question the idealized standards of intensive mothering as being restrictive and unachievable; who view their mothering in a positive light even though they have lived and mothered in social milieus deemed outside the boundaries of acceptable mothering; and who uphold that they are indeed worthy mothers despite their stigmatized status.  Particular attention is given to the ways that intersections of gender, race, and social class shape and influence abused mothers constructions of their mothering identities.  This book calls into question the false notion that there is only one standard, one definition, and one social location in which effective mothering is performed.  It is a voice against the judgment of mothers, a call to end the oppressive and restrictive bifurcation of mothers into categories of either “good” or “bad” mothers, and an attempt to re-envision a more inclusive understanding of mothering.  This book is a movement towards the empowerment of all mothers, regardless of differences in their lives and social circumstances.

“This study is innovative and of great value in presenting complex, nuanced, agentic and diverse subjectivities of mothers who have experienced domestic abuse. In qualitatively studying and giving space to the voices of mothers who have experienced abuse, the book addresses an intersection under-explored in the field. By exploring their resistances to, and rejections of, dominant discourses of motherhood, this text provides rare narrative portraits of mothers who have endured abusive relationships. This book should be read by academics as well as activists, by anyone who seeks to understand the lived realities and subjectivities of mothers who live in, or have survived abuse. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the book will be a valuable resource for mothers who have themselves suffered abuse, affording a venue for them to see themselves represented as subjects, not merely statistical samples or passive objects.”
—Rebecca Bromwich, Ph.D., LL.B., LL.M., Instructor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa


The Journey of “Mothering in Marginalized Contexts”

The Dominant Ideology of Intensive Motherhood, the Discourse of the “Good Mother” and the “Bad Mother”, and Mothering in the Context of Domestic Violence

Chapter 1
Mothering in the Social Context of Domestic Violence: What We Know and Don’t Know

Chapter 2
Women’s Narratives and Experiences of Mothering in Domestic Violence – From Their Voices

Chapter 3
Abused Women’s Knowledge and Understandings of the Dominant Ideology and Discourse of Motherhood

Chapter 4
Abused Women’s Subjective Constructions of their Mothering Identities: The Influence of the Dominant Ideology of Intensive Motherhood and the Discourse of the “Good Mother” Versus “Bad Mother”

Chapter 5
Abused Women’s Mothering Identities - Intersections of Gender, Race, and Social Class

From Marginalized Mothering to Empowered Mothering


Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker is a Sociologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Alberta (2011), MA in Sociology from McGill University (2002), and BA Honours in Sociology from Queen’s University (2001). Caroline is the mother of 3 young children. Her areas of expertise include: the sociology of motherhood/mothering, gender, family, domestic violence, disasters, social inequality, social policy, and qualitative research methods. She is a contributing author to Criminalized Mothers, Criminalizing Mothering (Demeter 2015) and the co-editor of upcoming Demeter Press edited collection book Mothering in Disasters/Mothering Disasters. She is currently conducting a 3-year study on the impact of disasters on the family (with a focus on mothers and mothering) funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant.