‘The lives of women are inextricably linked to the well-being of children. If they are not educated, if they are not healthy, if they are not empowered, the children are the ones who suffer.’ (UNICEF report, 2006)
The study this book is based upon was of a pioneering facilitating programme enabling low-income mothers with little to no outside support to attend college or university. The women’s stories are told in their own words and are used to explore the importance of education as a way to improve their and their children’s lives. The book begins with an engaging Foreword from Rosemary H. Balsam, FRCPsych (London), MRCP (Edinburgh), Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Yale Medical School. Followed by the author’s introduction, the book is then split into three parts. Part I sets the background of the study itself and of Western societal attitudes towards single mothers over the centuries. Mary Kay O’Neil also investigates common maternal tasks, the effect of parental and relational experiences, the life impact of becoming a mother, and the various influences on the decision mother alone. Part II considers the characteristics basic to effective mothering: resilience, autonomy, and caring. In the light of the author’s interest in women’s development, Part III explores the psychodynamic understanding of mothers alone without resources, and outlines society’s role in providing the opportunity for them to become successful mothers. The parts are followed by an Afterword to summarise what was learned through the women’s generous openness and to suggest societal improvements for increased opportunity. The book closes with two Appendices. The first tells the story of O’Neil’s mother, who also mothered alone. The second delivers the research findings of the study for those interested in learning more. This clearly written book underlines the UNICEF statement above and does much to engage with the debate on support for those most vulnerable members of society.