Shared Parenting and Challenges for Maternal Autonomy

Research output: Chapter


This paper explores the tensions between autonomy and expectations of mother-caregivers, in the context of trends in child custody law. Do mothers have appropriate scope for autonomy in the face of socio-legal norms that prioritize shared parenting? Feminism has been centrally concerned with freeing women to shape their own lives, rather than accepting a male-dominated definition of their lives. Yet the very relationship between mother-caregivers and children illustrates the important connection between relationships and autonomy: the caregiving that mothers provide enables children to become autonomous persons, yet this relationship simultaneously constrains maternal autonomy. In the current normative climate, the potential for maternal autonomy is further compromised – even when mothers choose to live apart from a child’s biological father. A responsible mother is expected to nurture a child’s relationship with the father, unless he is proven to be harmful. The dominance of the heterosexual and patriarchal family – always a challenge for women’s autonomy – is reproduced in this imposition of equal parenting. How autonomous motherhood can be promoted in the face of normative shared parenting will be the question asked.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhat Do Mothers Need?
Subtitle of host publicationMotherhood Activists and Scholars Speak Out on Maternal Empowerment for the 21st Century
PublisherDemeter Press
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

SeriesAndrea O'Reilly, ed., What Do Mothers Need? Motherhood Activists and Scholars Speak Out on Maternal Empowerment for the 21st Century, Demeter Press, 2012, 231-242

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