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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Eight: Bad Mother (María Cioè-Peña / Laura Castro Santamaría)


chapter 8

Bad Mother

María Cioè-Peña and Laura Castro Santamaría

At any given time, a person can access the news and come across a report about a mother and her child. Often, the audience will take in some bits of information, and then proceed to categorize that mother as “good” or “bad.” Stories about bad mothers are, in some ways, the most appealing. Perhaps it’s because we believe ourselves to be a society that cares for its young or, more likely, because it helps others measure their own parenting or humanity. This is a story about a moment in time that constructed one mother as a “bad mother” and turned another into a godmother. In order to understand how these lives became intertwined, we must start at the beginning. In 2010, I, María, had been Justine’s teacher for three years. This was also my third year as a bilingual special education teacher—the lead teacher in a self-contained class, managing between nine to twelve students and up to five paraprofessionals at any given time. During these three years, Laura, Justine’s mother, was an active parent in the class and we developed a very friendly, yet professional relationship. She was a stay-at-home mom who was raising three children, all of whom had, at some point, received some type of special education service. Justine was her first child and the one whose path in the world was the hardest to carve...

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