Culture, Globalization, Women
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Global families and the role of migrant mothers

Italy, like many “advanced” countries, relies on migrant women’s labour to manage modern family lifestyles. The particular phenomenon, yet little studied in the italian immigration scene, is that women’s collaboration in family work, is implemented in ways that engage information technology and has an impact on the organization of the migrant’s original family, and society.

In Global Families, Paola Bonizzoni, a researcher at the Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan, shows how the weight of the shortage of work, or couple’s problems are often faced with the departure of the woman. Often already a mother, migrant women work in situations that require them to help another’s family life. They experience distress situations due to forced separation from their own children and loved ones.

In the transnational migration phenomenon studied by Paola Bonizzoni through the lens of global families, women still seek to maintain active roles in the management of the family of origin, implement complex forms of care; and, balancing suffering with embracing new challenges, still keep a grip on the texture of their own family. Hope for a family reunion, both through the construction of a new family or with new partners, plays a dominant role in maintaining active familiar ties.

A trait Bonizzoni point out is of particular interest: the role of communication technologies.  ICT help migrant women at what she calls “the borders of motherhood”: phone calls, chat and digital communications allow mothers to maintain active emotional relationships, despite distances.

In short, migrant mothers show a deep courage in “making the family”, maybe even more so than families that employ them. In this sense, one should question the composition of western ‘local’ households, who can “cope with their multiple tasks by draining affective, emotional and working resources from families in the poorest countries.”

An original work that leads Italian or Western mothers to interrogate their own multitasking required by our [still dominant] male role models.

Melissa Pignatelli

Source reviewed: Paola Bonizzoni, Famiglie Globali. Le frontiere della maternità, UTET Università, 2009, buy here. 

Picture: a Tibetan mother, original source at blessedwildapplegirl

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