Coming up to about a month of our 10 month residence in the ethnographic field and last night I heard the words I have been dreading "Mummy I don't want to be in Mexico any more, I want to go home". If anything I'm surprised it took this long, though my eldest has always been sensitive to what's going on around her and is not likely to blurt this out at any given moment. I have to say I envy a child's ability to be honest with themselves and those surrounding them, in reality she was only echoing what I have often felt on the inside during this first month.
So far we have had arguments with landlords and house moves, infestations of head lice, regretful, unplanned trips to the jungle (long story!), occasional vomiting, over tiredness, insomnia and a spattering of general wobbling of confidence in what I'm here to achieve - and that's just me!
Having been witness to all this and only once have uttered the 'going home' words, (which to add context were said as an over-tired, outplayed four year old was refusing to put her own pyjamas on) before promptly falling fast asleep, has actually left me feeling immensely proud of eldest daughter and amazed at her adaptation skills.After spending a sleepless night worrying about my response/plan to these dreaded words, there was no mention of it the next morning as she happily chatted on about her plans for play that day. She appears to be coping with this whole fieldwork thing much better then me!
A positive house move to a neighbourhood where other children are at hand to play with and impending starting of pre-school have certainly helped smooth over this initial period. From my workload point of view it also allows me to stop pressurising myself into intense data collection as I will very soon have a short period of 5 child free hours a day to occupy myself with and a more defined 'work day'. I've never been a outspoken fan of routine, however, bringing a child into the field has forced me to have a structured routine that is beneficial to data collection.
Pregnant belly and chatty four year old are also proving beneficial in the legitimising myself in surroundings and with informants arena. It's become quite useful when attached daughter begins most conversations for you, being an apprentice in the field one has much to learn about how children engage strangers in conversation and abstract useful information. So much so I'm beginning to wonder whether I can continue in her absence whilst she's at school!!
On a poignant note, coming to observe motherhood in a place where motherhood is everywhere and in most aspects a very social event. Where women work with babies or small children attached to them, where daily tasks are carried out and life goes on without a severe separation of activity and mothering spaces it allows me to reflect upon the fact that I have half my child stock here with me and will continue to do whilst I work and study for a doctorate degree. If anything, I am questioned here as to why I would leave another child behind - quite different to the conversations I had in the UK about why I would possibly want to bring a child with me.
The emotional strain of leaving one child behind was something that I expected to struggle with, though it appears, as with my daughter that my son is adapting quite well to my skype presence and seemingly a less outwardly affected than I at our separation. The next challenge will be when we all come together in month's time and then have to separate again - with the addition of a new baby. The fear of not knowing how this will all pan out is driving my data collection each day and helping me maintain focus. I do wonder that without this added pressure what stage I would currently be at now...probably still looking for a cheaper, more comfortable house!