Negotiating parenting culture, identity, and belonging : The experiences of Southern European parents raising their children in Norway
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Background and aim: In the current environment of globalization, notions of parenting and childhood travel across borders and interact with local understandings pertaining to childrearing. Likewise, families are increasingly on the move, negotiating parenting cultures in diverse arenas like institutions, household, and workplaces. The overarching research question in this dissertation was: How do Southern European migrant parents experience raising their children in Norway? The question is addressed through specific questions in each of the three publications. Methodology: The study followed a qualitative research design. Empirical data were collected in three Norwegian municipalities from September 2017 to January 2018. Study participants were 15 mothers and 5 fathers from Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain who were living and raising their children in Norway. Two focus group discussions were conducted with 10 migrant mothers, and 14 interviews (12 individual, 2 couple interviews) were conducted with 16 migrant parents. In the focus group discussions, questions addressed experiences and opinions regarding mothering in Norway and meeting other parents and professionals in this context. Interviews followed a narrative approach and key topics addressed were family background, life prior to migrating, migration, and life and parenting in Norway. The data were analysed thematically and narratively. Research questions and findings: The research questions explored in Article I were: What are Southern European mothers’ reflections about mothering in Norway? What is the role of emotions in the context of motherhood in migration? We conducted thematic analyses of the focus group discussions and interviews carried out with the mothers. When talking about experiences of mothering in migration, the mothers reflected on their emotions in relation to dialogue-based and child-centred mothering ideals; and cultural differences in social interactions, eating, and drinking patterns. Drawing on Hochschild’s framework on emotions, the article shows that the migrant mothers encountered contrasting rules about how they should feel about raising their children in both host and origin countries (“feeling rules”). Through “emotion work” (techniques through which individuals regulate and direct their feelings to establish or maintain relationships with others), like idealizing family life in Norway and stressing positive values of their cultures of origin, they managed the contrasting “feeling rules”, negotiating, in this way, their belonging to host and origin countries. Article II explored the migration narratives of Southern European migrant parents. The research questions were: How do Southern European migrant parents narrate their migration to Norway? What do they aim to accomplish through their storytelling? The interview data were analysed narratively. Storytellers articulated their stories of migration to Norway around their aspiration to build a family and be involved in their children’s upbringing. Framed by the lens of aspirations and narrative analysis, the article discusses migrant parents’ family aspirations as self-legitimation strategies. By telling stories of migration to Norway articulated around their family aspirations, the migrant parents legitimated their migration to and parenthood in Norway and distanced themselves from discourses on labour migration and migrant parenting that position them as “the Others” in the host society. The research questions addressed in Article III were: How do Southern European migrant parents experience professional advice on family leisure and outdoor play in their encounters with welfare state professionals in Norway? How do they navigate discourses of risk in this context? Three themes were identified: contesting discourses of risk; feigning cooperation; and accepting professional intervention in collaborative or compliant relationships. Drawing on Bateson’s concept of the double bind, the article discusses how migrant parents encountered contrasting demands on their role as “risk managers” within the imperatives of intensive parenting. This double-bind position emerged also due to tensions in cultural framings of risk and of childhood from host and origin countries. A central pattern was that the parents experienced expert-knowledge as implying individual responsibility for lifestyle choices associated with Southern European cultures. Discussion and conclusions: The discussion chapter discusses overreaching patterns across the articles. A discussion of methodological choices and implications for practice and theory is also included. Raising their children in a cross-cultural context, the migrant parents negotiated contrasting demands on their parenting framed by cultural and value-laden understandings of parenting, childhood, risk, belonging, and self. This situation also provided migrant parents with opportunities for re-defining their identities and parenting in light of the new demands of the post-migration context and the challenges this posed to the wellbeing of their children and families. In negotiating their own parenting, the migrant parents responded to notions of “good” parenting within the ideology of intensive parenting. In this regard, the findings illustrate that intensive parenting prevails as the ideal by which migrant parents and others in the respective host and origin countries assess parenting. In their interactions with professionals and other parents in Norway, the migrant parents encountered middle-class Norwegian ways of conceptualizing childhood and parenting. When these contrasted with ideals from their cultures of origin, they found themselves in a double-bind position that they coped with by responding to legitimated notions about how “good” parents should manage risks to their children’s wellbeing. Due to gendered roles within parenting ideals, the mothers perceived that moral judgements were made about their mothering. To respond to such judgements and to the contrasting rules about the way they should feel about their mothering in the host and origin countries, they engaged in emotion work, and, in so doing, negotiated their belonging to both communities. The tensions experienced between conflicting parenting norms and expectations reinforced migrant parents’ feelings of being ‘Othered’ in public, media, institutional, and professional discourses in Norway. In negotiating their parenting (resisting, rejecting, embracing, accommodating, developing, and considering parenting and cultural ideals), engaging in emotion and boundary work, and telling stories of migration around their family aspirations, the migrant parents responded to being ‘Othered’ and negotiated their identity and sense of belonging to Norway.
Has partsPaper I. Herrero-Arias, R., Hollekim, R., Haukanes, H., & Vagli, Å. (2020). The emotional journey of motherhood in migration. The case of Southern European mothers in Norway. Migration Studies. mnaa006. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2738696
Paper II. Herrero‐Arias, R., Hollekim, R., & Haukanes, H. (2020). Self‐legitimation and sensemaking of Southern European parents' migration to Norway: The role of family aspirations. Population, Space and Place, 26(8), e2362. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2739070
Paper III. Herrero-Arias, R., Lee, E., & Hollekim, R. (2020). “The more you go to the mountains, the better parent you are”. Migrant parents in Norway navigating risk discourses in professional advice on family leisure and outdoor play. Health, Risk & Society, 22 (7- 8), 403-420. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2020.1856348