Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
For many opiate addicted women, motherhood and mothering is central to their lives. Their actions and identities are focused around their ability to care for their children. Although these women care deeply about their status as a parent, institutional and cultural beliefs often exclude criminalized women from conversations about what “good” motherhood looks like. Drug treatment programs, physicians, and the Department of Children and Family Services, among others, increasingly control the narrative of what mothering should look like for these women, and force them to negotiate their care work. Based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork with pregnant, opioid addicted women in Northeast Ohio, this paper highlights the variety of social and economic strategies that these women use to mother their children effectively. Study participants creatively and strategically resist institutional ideals of motherhood and cultural presumptions about what “good” mothering looks like in order to care for their families. Examining these women’s experiences provides an opportunity to analyze how mothering is a dynamic and negotiated process (Sered and Norton-Hawk, 2011).