This study aims to define the perspectives taken by single mothers when combining work and motherhood in a stressful work–life constellation. One of the challenges for single mothers after divorce is to find a work–life balance in their single-parent family system. Regarding work-life balance, we take a General Strain Perspective, describing the work-life conflict as a combination of financial strain and role strain. We argue that both strains are the most problematic for single mothers in comparison to their married and/or male counterparts, as both finances and parenthood ideologies are more under pressure. For this reason, we explore how single mothers coped with this strain, answering the question: ‘Which perspectives on the combination motherhood and work do single mothers take in their attempt to balance role strain and financial strain after divorce?’ To answer this research question, we used a qualitative approach, based on 202 in-depth interviews with single mothers in Belgium. These interviews involved two groups: A primary research population of 13 single mothers and an elaborative research population of 189 single mothers. Timelines were used to structure the single mothers’ narratives. The analysis resulted in the contruction of a typology of four different perspectives based on how single mothers dealt with maternal role strain and financial strain: the re-invented motherhood perspective, the work-family symbiosis perspective, the work-centered motherhood perspective and the work-family conflicted perspective. We found that perspective of single mothers in their work-life strain can be described by the flexibility and/or strictness in either their motherhood ideology and/or their work context. These results point at the needs for policymakers, employers, and practitioners to focus on initiatives improving the work–life balance of single mothers by reducing financial and role strains.
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