Too Much Mothering

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Nancy Hirschmann raises a host of worries about difference feminism’s accounts of the centrality of caregiving to human flourishing. She also criticizes the public-policy recommendations that care feminists have put forward, premised on the assumptions that caregiving has substantial public value, that it ought to be compensated accordingly, and that past failure to do so has been an injustice.

I am sympathetic to those worries. I, too, am concerned about the numbers of relatively privileged women leaving university life and professional school for full-time mothering, whether they intend to return or not. I agree that they are doing themselves and their children no favors, and that their actions represent a breach, of sorts, of a web of obligations that should flow from the substantial societal resources committed to their education and training.

I also agree that no matter the considerable shortcomings of our current welfare net for poor mothers, a return to the policies of the 1980s is no cure.

I disagree, however, with Hirschmann’s diagnosis and its implications for policy.

Publication Citation

July/Aug. 2010 Bos. Rev. 12