Thursday, 22 August 2013

Motherhood in the Field: Arrivals and Departures

"...a central point of fieldwork - to just load upon experience and let yourself slowly sort it out at levels conscious and un-." 

The months are flying by and the arrival (and subsequent departure) of my husband and son in the field has definitely been one of the most challenging aspects to this adventure so far. A mixture of new baby heaven and all the emotions that go with it, a full house from two to five in a matter of days and a family reunited after two months of separation. This could have been a disaster, turning everything upside down just as my data collection was gaining pace and my informant relationships developing. It was in fact the opposite ... it changed the way I look at my research questions and gave me a completely different perspective on maternal subjectivities. It also reminded me of a crucial aspect I had up to this point been ignoring - the paternal perspective on motherhood and child rearing. An obvious yet easily lost perspective in a fieldsite with highly gendered spaces. Having my husband here, himself once a local boy increased my limited opportunity to be reminded of how people here shape fatherhood and men's role in child rearing and decision making.

This of course I have realised upon reflection and a re-reading of my field notes made during those two very short months, I keep a kind of personal reflective diary as well as an ethnographic description diary which is proving very useful. Living it at the time felt like a different reality family life became increasingly distracting and I constantly worried about opportunities I may be missing out on, or reading time I would never get back. There was an emotional pull of putting work off in order to take advantage of the boys and lap up every moment of my son's presence. Things began to get harder as their visit came to a close and I worried (as my previous post demonstrates) on how I would cope in there absence. 

Saying goodbye a second time around has been horrible and unsettling for us all, it really made me reassess my priorities - PhD or Family - it felt like a battle between the two. I realise now that it is not so clear cut and there are ways to make them of equal importance in a practical sense. It might seem strange to put my academic and career development on a par with my family but no-one quite prepares you for the emotional and physical strain of...well....either one and in that sense they are very similar. Being a mother and a wife influences who I am as a human being, but so does my study. This experience is teaching me a lot about myself and the strength of my relationships and in turn is giving me an insight into the lives I study that would never have happened if my own family life hadn't been turned upside down in order to make it happen. 

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