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Babushki as Surrogate Wives: How Single Mothers and Grandmothers Negotiate the Division of Labor in Russia


  • Utrata, Jennifer


Much like husbands and wives, single mothers and grandmothers struggle over the sharing of paid work and “second shift†responsibilities. Using in-depth interview and ethnographic data from Russia, this article applies elements of Hochschild’s (1989) framework to illuminate sites of tension and reciprocity among single mothers and their children’s grandmothers, or babushki, demonstrating that women’s negotiations across the generational divide resemble those between husbands and wives across the gender divide. However, the rules of reciprocity are relaxed, women seldom opt out of domestic work entirely, and conflicts lead to diminished support rather than “divorce.†The author argues that both generational mothering ideologies and outer circumstances shape how women ultimately share responsibilities. When mothers and babushki pursue similar generational mothering strategies, conflict is minimized.

Suggested Citation

  • Utrata, Jennifer, 2008. "Babushki as Surrogate Wives: How Single Mothers and Grandmothers Negotiate the Division of Labor in Russia," Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, Working Paper Series qt3b18d2p8, Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:bpspss:qt3b18d2p8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shireen Kanji, 2004. "The Route Matters: Poverty And Inequality Among Lone-Mother Households In Russia," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 207-225.
    2. Lokshin, Michael & Harris, Kathleen Mullan & Popkin, Barry M., 2000. "Single Mothers in Russia: Household Strategies for Coping with Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 2183-2198, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grogan, Louise, 2013. "Household formation rules, fertility and female labour supply: Evidence from post-communist countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 1167-1183.


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