Boyer, Kate, Reimer, Suzanne and Irvine, Lauren
The nursery workspace, emotional labour, and contested understandings of commoditised childcare in the contemporary UK
Social & Cultural Geography, 14, (5), . (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.
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