Based on ethnography in a South Asian ethnic enclave and in-depth interviews with South Asian immigrant women, including single mothers working in the enclave, we explore the becoming and being of South Asian single motherhood. We specifically inquire how the becoming of single mothers affects the work–family lives of the mothers in an enclave economy. We show that the interplays of structural forces like immigration laws, racialized model-minority discourses, gendered ideologies of South Asian motherhood, and underlying patriarchy of the enclave economy create what we call “uneven paradoxes” for South Asian single mothers that further marginalize them. We further suggest that the single mothers challenge the paradoxes that mire their lives by striking up “patriarchal bargains” to find resources for themselves and their children and thus find agency within their constraining circumstances.

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