Precarious Motherhood

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:05
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rima SABBAN, ZAYED UNIVERSITY, United Arab Emirates
Homes/households in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are increasingly becoming grounds for precarious motherhood. Two forms of precariousness in living motherhood are at play: national motherhood, which means mothers who are UAE nationals, and foreign domestic helpers and nannies as mothers who have left their children behind to help raise the children of their employers. Migrant mothers are also experiencing an alienating form of motherhood by proxy. This paper aims to problematize the intersection of the two forms of motherhood taking place in one of the fastest growing (modernizing and globalizing) Arab states today, i.e., the UAE. In fewer than 40 years, the UAE has gone from a subsistence-level society to a highly globalized neo-liberal market economy. Consequently, families and mothers in the UAE have been experiencing tremendous changes and challenges to raising their families.

Young UAE national mothers have become the sole autonomous figures in modern nuclear families; however, they are incapable of performing their mothering duties if not supported by foreign domestic helpers and nannies, who are becoming an integral part of the young national UAE family. A new generation of young mothers today are themselves the product of this neo-liberal and precarious mothering, i.e., when mothers are helped by transnational nannies and domestic helpers to accomplish their role, they are de-facto partial mothers. Newly educated national mothers are finding themselves in challenging roles, encouraged by the state elites to join the workforce. They seem incapable of sustaining the same norms and practices that their mothers and grandmothers had practiced. Based on direct interviews with young national mothers, the paper brings forward the voices of new mothers practicing motherhood under the continuous unsettling changes of globalization and neo-liberal economies in the UAE.