Still Waters Run Deep: The Invisible Life of Working Mothers with Disabilities in Lithuania

MotherNet members Violeta Gevorgianienė, Eglė Šumskienė and Ciara Bradley recently published an article in the Journal ‘Qualitative Social Work’.

This article explores the challenges faced by women with disabilities in combining the roles of ‘mother’ and ‘worker’ in Lithuania and reflects on the strategies mothers employed to overcome these. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with twenty women with a variety of (dis)abling conditions and diverse life experiences between 2014 and 2018. In-depth thematic analysis by qualitative research teams revealed a constant tension in women’s aspirations to have a family and work. This revealed women’s enormous personal resources which facilitated them to overcome challenges they faced in motherhood as well as seemingly insurmountable obstacles to employment. However, within the vicious circle of social and economic challenges, they fought their battles with silent compliance, which hid their experiences and potentially denied them opportunities for support. This research reveals a policy response in Lithuania that categorises disability as an individual issue to be overcome rather than a socially constructed experience. The findings indicate the need for reframing understanding at macro, as well as micro-level policy interventions. At the micro-level, sensitive forms of professional support would help mothers with disabilities to choose more pronounced strategies of coping while also maintaining their dignity and privacy. These findings provide insights into the specific situation of women in Lithuania but are also relevant to many other contexts.