Mothering, Media, and Precarity
“It’s been brutal,” Carly told us when we met her at a neighborhood barbe-
cue joint to talk about her everyday life as a ­ mother of three girls.1 Friendly
and pragmatic, Carly ordered a salad and beer and chatted with us for
over two hours, laughing easily as she detailed the day-­ to -­day frustrations
of parenthood and candidly describing her ­ family’s financial trou­bles. In
just three short years, this ­thirty-­four-­year-­old had married her husband,
become a stepmother, had two ­daughters of her own, abandoned her
“dream ­career,” found (and lost) a job as a marketer, weathered her hus-
band’s two layoffs, and taken on three young baby­sitting charges to make
ends meet. In the meantime, Carly’s ­father, with whom she used to talk
for an hour daily, had passed away suddenly, and her ­mother had suffered
a small stroke.
Carly’s eve­ning out with us was a temporary break from her normal day
of caretaking and, more broadly, from a life ­shaped by seemingly impossible
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