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Negotiating parenting : lesbians in intimate relationships with mothers Mortenson, Joan Margaret

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to develop an understanding of the experience of lesbians who are in intimate relationships with women who are mothers, specifically how they negotiate parenting. Lesbian mothers live in constant negotiation with the 'inside/outside' nature of lesbian parenting and contend daily with both the strength of ideological practices surrounding the institution of motherhood and with individual and systemic homophobia and hetero-normativity. Patriarchal perspectives permeate our current ideology, social systems, and media creating an oppressive environment for lesbian headed families to attempt to function in. Lesbians in intimate relationships with mothers lack social acceptance, language to define and include them, and are until recently almost silent in social work professional literature. The meta-theme evidenced by this research was "Negotiating Parenting", under which the themes of Negotiating with the Mother, Negotiating with the Child/ren and Negotiating with Society emerged as the primary themes. The theme of Negotiating with the Mother generated the sub-themes of The Primacy of the Mother, Problematizing Parenting and Working Together. The theme of Negotiating with the Child/ren produced the sub-themes of Invitations to Bond, Naming the Role of the Co-Parent and Experiencing the Pains and Joys of Parenting. The final theme of Negotiating with Society was shaped by the sub-theme of Seeking Visibility and Legitimacy. Co-researchers offer their personal stories, which are then discussed and analyzed within the context of phenomenological inquiry and post-modern feminist theory. The co-researchers were asked to discuss the quality of their lived experiences within the context of their families and to reflect upon the meaning-making that emerged for them as a result of these experiences.

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