19 SES 03 B, Parenting, Diversity and Religion
In the wake of the 2015 migration wave across Europe, new practices related to migration and families took form in Sweden. Due to the circumstances a renewed interest in volunteering appeared even though Sweden is not historically known for using the charity model. Swedish with Baby was established as one of these new volunteer spaces.
In Sweden, there are different preventive support systems with the aim of educating individuals in parenting. Child care centers and parenting courses are offered by the public sector for all parents. In addition, open day care centers are a public service offered for parents on parental leave or stay at home parents. A more recent development to activities for parents on parental leave are “baby cafés” held at libraries or churches with a focus on talk about babies and parenting.
In 2012, an initiative to organize group meetings for parents with infants and small children with different ethnic backgrounds was launched by two mothers independently of one another. Today this is known as Swedish with Baby. Swedish with Baby became centered around the idea of a combined language and baby café. A language café is an educational initiative where language users devote time to conversation practice with native speakers in the target language.
Interest in Swedish with Baby skyrocketed in 2014 because of the refugee situation in Europe and with the large influx of non-Europeans. Swedish with Baby was first given attention in local media, quickly leading to national newspapers, radio stations and TV programs picking up stories of Swedish with Baby. Today there are currently Swedish with Baby meetings held in nine Swedish cities numbering 22 smaller residential districts. The official Swedish with Baby Facebook page has increased from approx. 800 followers in 2014 to over 9000 followers in 2017.
Through a year-long fieldwork project, the researchers entered the field of Swedish with Baby to examine how parents of infants and very young children with different backgrounds meet in spaces which have the intention of facilitating cultural border crossing with goals of integration.
In this paper we are discussing the experiences of longing and belonging shaped in these same spaces, in particular which spaces are imagined as open for parents and child in future belongings.
Drawing on the work of Sara Ahmed we explore how we inhabit different spaces and which bodies belong in which spaces (2006). In this paper we understand parenting as an activity imbued with one’s own previous relationships and the processes of belonging which these new relationships (with children, others and others children) enact. To have been parented lays the groundwork of identification in respect to language, ethnicity, religion and nationality. Lived parenting as used conceptually in this analysis (Adams Lyngbäck, 2016) refers to how the becoming process, in a pedagogical and ethical sense, is embodied. The child’s body makes visible a path upon with a parent follows (Ahmed, 2006). This corporeality of direction points towards futures for the individuals and the familial bonds. Thus, the identification categories are no longer what they were. They are transformed through the migratory parenting spaces through the child’s body.
Through the concept of the pedagogy of the “not yet” we describe how one leaves one way of inhabiting the world to embark on an open course away from a previous home. The becoming parent continues through life in a state of being in actions that are for the future, nurturing and protecting. Unpacking what a “not yet” pedagogical relation is will help to illuminate the phenomenon of ‘migration parenting´ or ‘migration of/in parenting´ in the empirical material.
We participated in weekly Swedish with Baby group-meetings at two sites: a library and an open day care center, taking part in the events which transpired. Field notes were written during the observations or right after the observations. We photographed artifacts at the meetings, but decided not to photograph parents or children. We also joined the day care center’s Swedish with Baby Facebook group and the e-mail list used by the participants at the library. In this nethnographic part of the study we have chosen not to take active part in any discussions or “liking” pictures or comments. The nethnographic observation is still in progress. Entering the field we presented ourselves in much the same way as was expected of the participating parents. This meant giving information about ourselves in regard to ethnicity, language use, and parenting which revealed our migratory histories as it did everyone else’s. These portrayals prompted the exchanges about migration and parenting which followed throughout the activities. We were identified as belonging in the group of “established” in Sweden but with a non-Swedish background as well as being identified as parents. This facilitated discussions of a certain kind: that of being a fellow parent; and also of speaking another language than Swedish with our children. We were sometimes identified as “experts” which lead to questions about work, education or housing. In addition to the participant observations we have conducted in-depth interviews with parents from the two different sites, a group interview with employees of the sponsoring organizations, and the employees of the volunteer organization. The interviews with parents were conducted at the location for the meetings, their homes or on a walk with the baby. The interviews with staff of the sponsoring organization were conducted at their workplaces, and the group interview with Swedish with baby employees was held at the Swedish with baby office. Additionally a focus-group interview was conducted with parents from two other locations of Swedish with Baby at the organization’s office building. The interviews were held in Swedish or in English. We utilized process consent procedures (Ramcharan & Cutcliffe, 2001) by identifying ourselves each time we entered the field. This gave the participants the opportunity to choose if they wanted to engage with us or not or what information they presented about themselves.
The shared experience of being a parent of a very young child foregrounds all the involvements in Swedish with Baby. They are engaging in Baby with Swedish rather than Swedish with Baby. Their lived parenting (Adams Lyngbäck, 2016) frames all other actions in the observed environments. A secondary significant aspect they all share is that they have been drawn to an activity which has the added quality of meeting others unlike themselves. For many of the first generation immigrants it clearly appears that the goal of learning Swedish is unimportant. The Swedish parents often made reference to how their paid parental leave made it possible for them to leave their largely Swedish neighborhoods. They hoped that their children would become a part of the diversity within the borders of Sweden but at the same time were not willing to move to more diverse neighborhoods. Segregation was referred to as a permanent and nearly insurmountable problem if private citizens didn’t enact change in their own lives. The findings point to how even Swedish parents in privileged positions are negatively affected by this segregation fed through multiple divisions of income and Swedishness. The imagined future emerges as a prominent concern in the parents’ participation in Swedish with Baby where it is mutually constituted. The process can be described in terms of a pedagogical relationship which both the parent and the child are on their way to but have not yet arrived. Becoming Swedish, becoming a Swedish speaker, becoming “established” in Sweden are variations of parallel and intertwined processes. For the participants of integration processes when viewed through this “not yet” lens the multiple becomings are imbued with a striving to co-exist in spaces of differentness for the sake of their children’s belongings now and for generations in the future.
Adams Lyngbäck, L. (2016). Experiences, networks and uncertainty: parenting a child who uses a cochlear implant. (Doctoral dissertation). Stockholm, Sweden: Stockholm University. Ahmed, S. (2006b). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Intke-Hernández, M. & Holm, G. (2015). Migrant Stay-At-Home Mothers Learning to Eat and Live the Finnish Way. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 5(2), pp. 75-82. Retrieved 31 Jan. 2018, from doi:10.1515/njmr-2015-0012 Johannesen, B. & Appoh, L. (2016). “My children are Norwegian but i am a foreigner”. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 6(3), pp. 158-165. Retrieved 31 Jan. 2018, from doi:10.1515/njmr-2016-0017 Ramcharan, P., & Cutcliffe, J. R. (2001). Judging the ethics of qualitative research: Considering the ‘ethics as process’ model. Health & Social Care in the Community, 9(6), 358-366.
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