Managing Family Life over Distance : Estonian Stay-Behind Partners Perspectives on Family Life in the Context of Labour Migration to Finland

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2016110226199
Title: Managing Family Life over Distance : Estonian Stay-Behind Partners Perspectives on Family Life in the Context of Labour Migration to Finland
Author: Allas, Anna-Liisa
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2016
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2016110226199
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/168416
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sociology
Sosiologia
Sociologi
Abstract: Migration is not necessarily about settling with the whole family to a new country, but instead it is becoming more common that family members are dispersed between countries. Also almost all Estonian parents who have been working abroad have decided to leave their child or children in Estonia where they are typically in the care of the other parent. For Estonian migrants Finland is the most popular destination country and therefore, this study investigates family life in the context of Estonian labour migration to Finland. The labour migration of one family member does not only shape the life of that person, but also the lives of those who remain behind. Because partners who stay behind with the children in the home country are rarely included in research on migration or transnational families, this study is based on their perspectives and analyses the dynamic experiences of family life that crosses national borders. Drawing on the literature of some of the leading scholars in the field of transnationalism, family practices and co-presence, I examine how family relationships are maintained, how family responsibilities are managed, and what meanings are given to family life across countries borders. The study includes in-depth semi-structured interviews with stay-behind partners who are currently living in a transnational family, but also those who have recently had the experience and who thus were able to better reflect on it with hindsight. The results of the research add insights to presence and absence in family life. The analysis shows that frequent and highly regular communication over distance helps to sustain a sense of family unity. However, mediated co-presence which is produced by this long-distance communication does not replace physical co-presence which allows the stay-behind partners to best make sense of the family relationships. At the same time, physical co-presence requires adjustments in the stay-behind partners everyday life who during the absence of their partner have established their own routines. For some stay-behind partners, these adjustments can feel very demanding as they decrease their control over their daily routines and bring with it more tasks.
Subject: transnational families
transnationalism
labour migration
family life
co-presence
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