The nursery workspace, emotional labour, and contested understandings of commoditised childcare in the contemporary UK

Boyer, Kate, Reimer, Suzanne and Irvine, Lauren (2012) The nursery workspace, emotional labour, and contested understandings of commoditised childcare in the contemporary UK. Social and Cultural Geography, 14, (5), 517-540. (doi:10.1080/14649365.2012.710913).


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Day nurseries are now the most prevalent form of childcare in the UK after grandparents. Yet in contrast to the considerable administrative attention these spaces attract in terms of certification and oversight, little is known about nurseries as places to work. We extend existing scholarship through an analysis of care practices and emotional labour in day nurseries based on 400 hours of participant observation and interviews with 22 care workers at five facilities in the South of England. We argue that although hard, draining work; nursery workers can also experience profound emotional connections with the children in their care. We then extend our analysis to argue that various kinds of boundary-work is undertaken in nursery space to both validate strong feelings (including love) between care workers and children, and maintain conceptual coherence over the emotional entitlements of parents and care workers in the context of emotional bonds between carers and children which blur sharp divisions between ‘kin’ and ‘non-kin’. Finally we mobilize these findings to challenge dominant theoretical conceptualisations of commoditised care as incapable of providing nourishing emotional bonds; as well as portrayals of day nurseries as a priori ‘non-nurturing’ spaces which circulate widely in the UK popular press.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/14649365.2012.710913
ISSNs: 1464-9365 (print)
1470-1197 (electronic)
Related URLs:
Keywords: childcare, day nurseries, care work, emotional labour, commoditised care, affective practice
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions : Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Geography and Environment > Population, Health & Wellbeing
ePrint ID: 338325
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
May 2012In press
Date Deposited: 16 May 2012 09:10
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 14:27

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