Later this month, on March 31, mothers all over Ireland will be celebrated on Mother’s Day. Women across Ireland become mothers and experience motherhood in myriad ways. However, in our society, there persists a narrow definition of what constitutes a ‘mother’. This ignores the day-to-day experiences of so many women and their children who experience the mother-child relationship in a variety of non-traditional contexts.
In Ireland, increasing numbers of women in same-sex relationships are choosing to have children together. Despite the social change that has been happening in Ireland evident in the overwhelming support for Marriage Equality in 2015, LGBT+ families are still not fully protected by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.
Having legal parental rights has been shown to be a vital component of the development of a parental identity and the lack of legal parental rights is often accompanied by a pervasive anxiety about children being removed from their parents’ care. It is important for the wellbeing of all parents and their children, not just those in the LGBT+ community, that this is rectified as soon as possible.
Who we are and what we’re doing
We are two second-year students on the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology course in Trinity College Dublin. As part of our studies, we are conducting research into the motherhood experiences of women in planned same-sex families. This an exploratory piece of research consisting of two separate studies focused on two different aspects of motherhood in same-sex families; one will explore the motherhood experience of birth mothers and the other will explore the motherhood experiences of non-birth mothers.
We are aware that these terms may not be the preferred choice of all women who mother in same-sex relationships, however, we have used them to make a clear distinction between the experiences we are trying to explore.
Why are we conducting this study?
Our aim is to give participating women a platform to share their perspective of motherhood. We hope that our results will add to the growing literature on the motherhood experiences of minority women, specifically those in the LGBT+ community.
By exploring the experience of mothers in same-sex relationships, we hope that specific challenges and concerns related to these unique experiences may be identified which would be helpful to a broad range of professionals who might encounter women parenting in same-sex relationships and/or their children.
Ideally, this study will also prompt psychologists and other professionals to reflect on their own attitudes, assumptions and biases about motherhood, which are likely to have been influenced through their socialisation in a heterosexist society. We aim to publish the results of this study and share widely to increase awareness of the experiences of women who mother in non-traditional contexts.
How can you get involved?
We would like to sincerely thank the women who have already been in touch and who have participated. However, we are still looking to speak with women who would be interested in sharing their experience with us. The criteria for this study are that you have planned a family with your same-sex partner and either you or your partner has given birth to your child.
For women who have experienced being birth mother as well as non-birth mother, please contact either of us.
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