Pushing the limits of motherhood: Narratives of older women in rural Zimbabwe

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on narratives of rurally-based Zimbabwean older women, this article analyses experiences of motherhood in relation to the country’s shifting economic and socio-political landscapes. The narratives of these older women, who have nurtured their children and continue to do so way into (their children’s) adulthood, push scholars to grapple with questions of motherhood in respect of ‘intensive mothering’. Intensive mothering points at the exclusivity of motherhood which frames the responsibility to provide and care for the children during their formative years as virtually the mother’s. Older women in this article are second and third generation mothers whose narratives challenge constructions of motherhood which limit intensive mothering to the formative stages of children’s lifecycle. The narratives raise questions like ‘when does a woman cease to be a hands-on mother who vigorously provides for her adult children?’ Such questions are a way into existential and contextual realities of ageing in rural Zimbabwe. Contextual-based analyses explore the interaction between motherhood, socioeconomic and political change in Zimbabwe through language that assigns meaning to motherhood, ageing, and the state. Overall, the article offers the reader insight into how questions of motherhood, ageing, and the state might affect women located within equally volatile contexts across the globe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-63
Number of pages20
JournalAfrican Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017


  • Motherhood
  • ageing
  • older women
  • rural Zimbabwe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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