This paper explores the ways in which working class mothers negotiate mothering and paid work. Drawing on interviews with 70 families with pre-school children, we examine how caring and working responsibilities are conceptualised and presented in mothers’ narratives. Mothers showed a high degree of commitment to paid work and, in contrast to findings from an earlier study with middle class and professional mothers, did not feel that keeping their children at home with them was always the best option for the children. We suggest that working class mothers in the labour market remain at risk of being defined as inadequate mothers because of a middle class emphasis on intense maternal engagement with the child as a key aspect of ‘good’ mothering
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