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In the American society, motherhood has for long been considered as legitimate only if the woman is married. Marriage has been the ideal nuclear family relationship with one wife one husband structure. Most Americans were brought up in nuclear families composed of a heterosexual couple together with their biological children (Hertz, 2006). This being the case, whatsoever deviation has been handled with negativity and suspicion, and in most cases unwed motherhood has deemed to be immorality.
During the industrialization age, the woman was perceived as a primary caregiver and her domain would be domestic confinement. However, this social construct has been replaced with time and women are increasingly involving themselves in economic activities which have ‘let them loose’ from domestic confinement. This change of perception of motherhood has been more real to the white women than to women of other cultures (Davidman, 2000).
Social construct of motherhood in American families
Currently, a good majority of single mothers hail from middle-class backgrounds and their motherhood status is a matter of personal choice rather than victims of circumstances. In fact these women do not feel compelled to acquire the role of womanhood due to becoming mothers as expected in the American society.
The social construct of motherhood as being in the confines of a heterosexual marriage context has over the time been challenged with increasing cases of single parenthood, more so single mothers. The circumstances surrounding single motherhood have been varied with reproductive technologies adding up to cases of single mothers.
Nowadays, women can bear children through assisted reproductive technologies and as long as they are financially stable, they take the role of child upbringing without seeking the input of a man. In a different perspective, there has been a class of women who purposely decide not to marry but through whichever means (e.g. adoption), the acquire children and take the role of motherhood.
Confinements of motherhood
This has equally challenged the social view of motherhood as only legitimate if conducted within a heterosexual nuclear marriage (Hertz, 2006). Some mothers are even seeking to have a child and create a relationship with the child without necessarily bringing the father in the picture. This has not been received well by adherents of the social construct of motherhood.”Accidental” pregnancies have also enhanced single motherhood and have caused a deviation in what defined motherhood in America.
Single motherhood is on increase
A rising controversy regarding motherhood has currently risen up as the rights of lesbians and gays regarding parenthood have become more recognized. The eligibility of lesbians and their capability of taking the role of motherhood have been questioned since this form of relationship is a clear deviation of constituents of ideal motherhood.
The social construct of motherhood in American families was perceived to result to an upright and wholesome upbringing of children (Hertz, 2006), which has been questioned among lesbian mothers. Civil rights movements have spearheaded the acknowledgement of bisexual and lesbian women as legitimate mothers. Single motherhood as a choice and a matter of circumstances
Single motherhood as a choice and a matter of circumstances
With motherhood deviating, day-by-day, from the social construct of motherhood in America, it has become vivid that the family structure has changed immensely. Single mothers, by choice or by circumstances, are becoming bold to take the mother and father role. Initially detestable family constituents, more so lesbian families, are on an increase. This has undoubtedly challenged the social construct of motherhood and family constitution in American families.
Motherhood has ceased to become a necessary component of the family equation as stigma related to single motherhood is waning. Nevertheless, it should be identified that the social construct of motherhood is still well rooted in the American society despite its perceived threats, otherwise, there would not be any outcry on the changing concepts of motherhood.
Davidman, L. (2000). Motherloss. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Hertz, R. (2006). Single by chance, mothers by choice: How women are choosing parenthood without marriage and changing the American family. New York, Oxford University Press.