“Good” Mothers, “Risky” Mothers, and Children’s Health
Within a North American context, promoting and maintaining individual health and wellness have become a central focus and social expectation over the last several decades. Various systems and institutions that comprise a mother’s social network—including family, friends, school, social media, healthcare and social services, food, and recreation spaces—all produce daily health messages that encourage the surveillance and practice of healthy lifestyle behaviours. Health promotion directed at families within these spaces often target and question everyday mothering practices, such as food preparation, physical activity, screen time, sleep, mental health, and overall parenting. This article seeks to examine the dominant biomedical discourses that have constructed categories of “good” and “risky” mothering practices within the area of child health. Weaving together my individual experience and knowledge as a Canadian paediatric healthcare social worker and mother, I will draw on feminist poststructuralism and maternal theory to explore how everyday mothering practices are often compared to ideal and normative mothering discourses that position mothers as individually responsible and blamed for their children’s health outcomes. The article also explores the tool of self-reflexivity, which can offer social workers and service providers working alongside mothers the opportunity to consider new ways they might resist and challenge the truths and assumptions of so-called “good”mothering across social systems and reimagine new systems of support for children, mothers, and families.
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