Sociology & Social Work

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The “mommy wars” are a cultural narrative of conflict between mothers that amplifies the scrutiny placed on mothering practices. While mothers at all social locations face criticisms for their choices surrounding parenting, mothers in poverty lack the resources to enact many socially mandated parenting practices and contend with additional scrutiny through participation in programs like welfare-to-work. In this project, I examine the parenting expectations mothers on welfare must navigate. I use 69 semi-structured interviews with welfare-to-work program managers in Ohio from 2010-2011 to examine which mothering ideologies they encourage and discourage clients to adopt. I find that managers are highly critical of clients’(perceived) parenting practices and instead pro-mote a combination of intensive mothering and economic nurturing. Managers promote intensive mothering and meeting children’s needs—so long as it does not interfere with the work requirements of the program. Economic nurturing simultaneously allows managers to express concern for children and promote clients participating in the work requirements of OWF, implying that work and family needs are aligned and can be met via work.

Publication/Presentation Information

Sociological Inquiry, 90(4), 2020, 839.

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Sociology Commons



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