Women parenting together : motherhood and family life in same sex relationships
This study is based on joint and separate in-depth interviews with twenty (female) same sex couples who planned and had their children together in the context of their relationship. These families are one example of the increasing possibilities to live in non-traditional relationships and family forms, in contemporary Western societies. While lesbian and gay parents have a long history, there is little precedence for same sex couples setting up families 'from scratch' i.e. choosing to have children in the context of their relationship. These possibilities can be placed in the context of wider transformations of intimacy. There is widespread agreement that individualism in personal relationships has substantially increased, although opinions differ about the extent to which this individualism is essentially selfish. Lesbian parents, for example, have been portrayed as selfish individuals (Phillips, 1998) or alternatively as 'prime everyday experimenters' (Giddens, 1992), although the reality may be more nuanced than either of these polarities suggests. Overall, recent sociological research into both heterosexual and 'non-heterosexual' family lives suggests that transformations of intimacy are characterised by negotiated commitments and moral reasoning. However, to date, relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which these themes may be modified by the presence of dependent children, particularly given the socially constructed nature of children's needs. Respondents in my study are involved in both innovative family practices and the care of dependent children. As such, they can offer new insights to the above debates. They present a radical departure from dominant conventions of heterosexual gendered family norms and the biological imperatives of reproduction. However, while working out new ways of doing family, these practices are located within deeply conventional moralities of motherhood, which leave little space within which to offer up new stories of doing family.