Listening to Lone Mothers- Paid work, family life, and childcare in Canada

Full employment is often recommended as the most reliable route out of poverty for low-income families, particularly families led by a lone mother. In combination with current fiscal and social policy shifts, this has led to changes in the way social assistance is administered, including requirements that those who receive assistance become gainfully employed once their children are a certain age—an age that varies across jurisdictions. In this study we interviewed 95 employed and unemployed Canadian lone mothers with young children about the relationship among family life, paid employment, and childcare. The paper describes the complex interrelationship of ideals of mothering, the meaning and value of paid work, and the role of reliable childcare for a sub-sample of employed lone mothers. The results indicate two key time periods when lone mothers weigh the benefits of paid work against other needs and values. The first occurs prior to employment and involves contemplating paid work, deciding to become an employee, and absorbing a shift in thinking about what it means to be a mother. The second occurs within the first year of paid work and involves a reconsideration of those issues and either a recommitment to employment or a temporary withdrawal from the labor force. Contributors to and influences on both of these periods are considered