This paper explores the changing nature of maternal responsibility in situations of separation and divorce, utilising data from PhD research on Irish mothers experiences of marital breakdown.
Historically the ideology of motherhood in Irish society was very much defined by a connection to and immersion in the family; as part of a taken for granted cultural milieu. Experiences from this research show a high level of conformity to this identity. Upon separation however, analysis shows that there is a shift in the pattern of responsibility; whereby there is significant disengagement by fathers and mothers responsibilities become all encompassing.
The traditional female life course which centered on responsibility for child rearing in marriage, that was engrained by state and society is now being extended with an obligation on mothers to assume two roles that of earner and carer, post separation. Such changes reveal how the identity of mothers changes after separation, particularly in terms of the shifting rights and obligations of earning and caring responsibilities with the right to individual autonomy being disregarded.