The value of leaving children alone at home: Producing Israeli Single mothers' ‘disentitlement' to child care

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Quite a few studies investigating welfare-to-work (WTW) programs have emphasized these programs' shortcomings in responding to the needs of mothers on welfare. Particularly, lowwage jobs have been legitimized by WTW programs to the extent that at times, their offered occupational training has directed mothers into working poverty, generating a range of family problems. From low-income mothers' point of view, ever since the welfare reforms, WTW programs have become a major, daily site of negotiating multiple policy arenas. In their negotiation with WTW they encounter a threefold message: Firstly, the “adult worker” model embodying the expectation that single mothers shoulder the task of developing the capacity for greater self-provisioning; secondly, the expectation that women will develop this capacity by undergoing occupational training that will enable them to “fulfill their own dream”; and thirdly, the demand that women go out to work even if they don't have adequate child care solutions. Our research question was how Israeli mothers, historically entitled to prioritize their maternal obligation while employed and be supported by child care services negotiate the gap between the WTW rhetoric and scarcity of child care. Our analysis exposes the value hierarchy that the WTW empowerment rhetoric promotes that devalues maternal obligations, leading to child care solutions being one's own responsibility and to mothers leaving their children alone at home, being valued as the most valuable option. Our analysis yielded three maternal positions with which maternal devaluation and disentitlement were 37 associated in a fairly distinct manner. For mothers who embraced the productivity criterion, disentitlement was triggered by the expectation that they leave children alone at home; for mothers who resisted the productivity criterion, disentitlement was associated with the gap between their own caring standards and what care services could offer; and, finally, mothers who underwent self-devaluation embraced the productivity criteria, yet could use no child care solutions, i.e., privatization of possible solutions was so powerful that entitlement could not even be imagined. We argue that embracing the productivity criteria – as well as resisting them – enhances a sense of self-efficacy among women who provide in poverty. However, mothers who were convinced by the WTW workshop to view their maternal practices as burdening obligations, obstacles on their path to “fulfilling their own dream”, have to deal with the social problem created by the scarcity of child care services on their own, with the outcome of self-devaluation.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2015
EventAnnual meeting of the Social Policy Association - Ulster University. Belfast, North Ireland, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Jul 20158 Jul 2015 (Website)


ConferenceAnnual meeting of the Social Policy Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityUlster University. Belfast, North Ireland
Internet address


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