Mother 360 degrees – A journey to motherhood in contemporary Poland according to experts

Project description:

Post-transformation reality of the neoliberal market has an impact on various areas of social life, including the transformation of Polish families (Slany 2013, Sikorska 2010, 2019, Hryciuk, Korolczuk 2012, 2015). The implementation of the Western patterns (por. Hays 1996, Douglas, Michaels 2005), especially within the middle-class and urban environments, contributes to the growing professionalization of parenthood (Sikorska 2010, 2019). In other words, child-centered family practices (Lee et al. 2014), which treat a child as a ‘project’, bring about the redefinition of motherhood as the social role and relationship. Motherhood is becoming more and more professionalized and, as such, requires constant intervention of various types of experts (Hays 1996).

Three categories of expert originate from different fields and play a significant role during the transition to parenthood. First, women in Poland who seek to become mothers see a key importance of gynecologists and midwives, due to their roles in the medicalized process of pregnancy and a broader privatization of healthcare. Second, a so-called return to nature can be observed, which, paradoxically, also requires some support of the experts, though quite different ones. In this realm, women refer to doulas, fitness/yoga instructors for pregnant women and homeopathic healing providers. Third, the virtual experts, such as parenting bloggers or celebrities, have had growing influence on the women’s decisions in the realm of motherhood. Women’s knowledge about being a mother is becoming less based on the intergenerational and socialization patterns, but rather stem from the transmission of the medical personnel and comparatively younger experts (see Gee, Levine 2009). The latter group has formal qualifications which do not directly relate to knowledge and professional experience in pregnancy and childbirth fields. At the same time, facing a pandemic, pregnant women experience difficulties in personal access to the medical care and experts.

Current situation in Poland elicits many changes, including the recommendations for delivery and care of a new-born baby. These are neither clear nor evidence, based, causing a lot of tension and uncertainty among the expectant mothers. In addition, a phenomenon of the experts’ transitioning from the personal contact to the virtual one is observed. Consequently, support and knowledge to future and young mothers is now furnished via various online tools. It has become commonplace for many pregnant and young mothers to participate in the birthing classes online, seek out doctors and midwives’ support in term of the telemedicine, or even take part in the trainings for mothers with newborns organized via Zoom or Teamlinks.

The project’s aims:

Project Mother 360 is tightly connected to the GEMTRA project (http://youth.swps.pl/gemtra/), which studies the transitions to motherhood across three generations of Polish women.

The main aim of the Mother 360 project is to study and describe the phenomenon of intensive motherhood (Hays 1996) from the various perspectives of the experts offering their services related to transition to motherhood, primarily within the Y and Z generation. Explicit emphasis is placed on social changes caused by the development of new technologies, with the current addition of the pandemic as a backdrop or accelerator of these shifts.

An additional aim is to study the professions of the future (present?) related to social support services formed thanks to the development of the Internet, especially among the members of Y and Z generations.

In that sense, the project has two dimensions: complementary to the existing study and initial for the planned projects included in the application strategy of the Youth Research Center in 2020.

The second supplementary objective is to study the impact of pandemic, on the one side, on the transitions to motherhood, which is connected to the main aim of the project, and, on the other, on the changes experienced by the traditional and modern professionals who offer support to pregnant women and young mothers.

Completion of the above objectives will allow us to better understand how the experts shape the knowledge of women, the participants of GEMTRA project, and will help to capture social change in the approach to pregnant women and young mothers in a generational and historical perspective.

Methodology:

A qualitative exploratory study will consist of about 50 interviews with the experts of the three main categories:

(1) medical professionals,
(2) bloggers / celebrities,
(3) people representing supporting professions (e.g. sport instructors).

The research will be conducted using the Internet tools, such as Hangout, Skype, Zoom, Teamlink, etc. Besides fostering continuation of the study in the existing epidemiological situation, the approach will help to reach the experts from the various regions of Poland and fits in well with the theses about digitalization.

The recruitment strategies include seeking out participants via Facebook, recommendations from the participants of the GEMTRA project, as well as direct contact with the chosen experts.

Interview scenarios include the following blocks: work, parenthood viewed by the experts, parenting discourse, adulthood vs motherhood, as well as pandemic.