Intensive mothering as cultural script
The majority of North American street-involved women – who trade sex for cash or drugs as part of their struggles with addiction, precarious housing and compromised health – are mothers who have lost or given up custody of their minor children. This chapter employs the cultural script of intensive mothering as an analytical tool to interpret findings from eighty-eight interviews with street-involved women and their social services and healthcare providers in Canada and the United States. Results indicate that street-involved women use four primary framings with respect to their understandings of themselves as mothers: asserting maternal identity as their rightful status, claiming a ‘good mother’ identity, delineating between mother and sex worker roles, and acknowledging child custody loss as a result of conditions surrounding street involvement. Social services and healthcare providers described themselves as working with street-involved women to change aspects of their lives in three general ways: modelling healthy behaviours, professional boundary setting and building ties that can bind. All of these framings occur in dialogue with the cultural script of intensive mothering, irrespective of the reality that structural conditions often render this type of caregiving off-limits to street-involved women.