Bringing up children is no longer something that mothers and fathers just do, as the editors write; it has become ‘parenting’, a culturally and historically specific activity ‘that is increasingly taken to require a specific skill-set; a certain level of expertise about children and their care’, and which is cast as ’an explanation for and solution to social problems’.
…What is very clear from this research, and other research in this volume, is the anxiety and sense of failure experienced by mothers when the expert advice that they might want to put into practice becomes difficult to implement in their own family circumstances. One way to try and avoid some of the conflict and anxiety is to decide that having a partner who might disagree with your parenting choices is more trouble than it is worth, and hence the category of parent ‘single mothers by choice’ is born. There is a fascinating account of one such mother in this volume, which speaks to the extent to which ‘good’ parenting practice has become individualised. The logic of intensive parenting culture is that it is easier to ‘parent’ according to the rules if there is no other adult getting in the way: in a bizarre twist, parenting becomes conceived of as incompatible with family life.