“She is no Mother at All”:
Images of Ex-Wives in the Discourse of Young Divorced Fathers
Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Acting Head of the Department of youth sociology and youth policy, Saint Petersburg State University. Saint Petersburg, Russia. email@example.com
Cand. Sci (Psychol.), Assoc. Prof., Saint-Petersburg State University, Saint-Petersburg, Russia firstname.lastname@example.org
The reported study was funded by RFBR according to the research project No. 19-011-00543.
We analyzed the images demonstrated by young fathers related to their ex-wives based on the interviews with 18 young divorced fathers. We found that young fathers perceive their ex-wives as “a bad wife” and “a bad mother” reflecting negative evaluation and contradictory stereotypes of woman’s role in a family. Following typology of a “bad” wife was construed: “a dictator”, “an aggressor”, “a consumer”, “a clinker”, “a drama queen”, or “a princess”. Also, following typology of a “bad” mother was typical: “hardly a mother”, “lazybones”, “an egoist”, “cast-iron nature”, “a snow queen”, or “a social climber”. We concluded that negative perceptions about ex-wives reflect the presence of an acute conflict between the spouses with an escalation largely impacted by contradictory gender stereotypes about the traditional roles of a woman, about the gender norms inherent for an “ideal” and “good” mother, about “intense” motherhood, and finally serve as manifestation of fathers’ wounded masculine identity. It was found that mutually unmet expectations of former spouses can be explained by lacking social maturity and competence, as well as egocentrism and pragmatism, which damage feelings and willingness for family service. We noted that the desire of men to apply the model of involved fatherhood is accompanied by fathers’ invasion into “mothers’ territory”, which changes the balance of power in the family, provokes conflicts, and aggravates competition between parents. The lack of agreement related to common values, the priority of individualistic values to the damage of reciprocity lead to an imbalance in family life manifesting in mistrust, negativism, and rough relations between young men and women. As a conclusion, we offer directions of possible support for divorced fathers.