No right time: the significance of reproductive timing for younger and older mothers' moralities

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Abstract

Drawing on a small qualitative study of younger and older mothers, this article argues that the timing of motherhood is significant for the construction of classed maternal moralities. It is based on qualitative data generated during a year of fieldwork, with a group of mothers who had their first child when particularly younger or older than average. My discussion of mothers' accounts highlights the multitude of different ‘right’ times mothers evoked and their struggles to reconcile them. In particular I identify there were two normative and conflicting discourses about the ‘right’ time for motherhood the narrative of appropriately timed motherhood and the discourse of generational right time. This article highlights the classed dimensions of normative discourses about the timing of motherhood and draws attention to the lifecourse dis-synchronicities which these two groups of women faced around becoming a mother, especially the older group for whom this had important intergenerational consequences.

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