When Eve Left the Garden: A Modern Tale about Mothers who Leave their Families

Motherhood - Power and Oppression

“When Eve Left the Garden: A Modern Tale about Mothers who Leave their Families” is a chapter I wrote in Andrea O’Reilly, Marie Porter and Patricia Short (eds.), Motherhood: Power and Oppression, The Women’s Press/Canadian Scholars Press, Toronto, 2005, pp. 265-283.

This chapter is based on my early (and subsequently revised) PhD research on “mothers who leave”. I develop an argument that the mothers I interviewed were leaving the “institution of motherhood” which assigns the majority of childcare and domestic work to women – rather than children or mothering per se. I examine British and Australian data on leaving mothers, current data on the division of domestic labour, and prevailing feminist theories of autonomy before elucidating the case of Liz. After six years of marriage and motherhood Liz left her partner and child to live in her own home; however, she continued to co-parent her son and have him stay over two to three nights a week. I postulate that in retaining their active mothering but moving out of the default position in the home, leaving mothers offer a “third way” beyond the extant antinomy between autonomy and care.

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Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford