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Negotiating parenting and places of care in Vancouver, BC Bester, Trina Louise

Abstract

The home as a site for childcare is linked to notions of 'good' parenting, and the employment of a nanny is often meant to create an extended family which enables a child to be nurtured in this private space. Qualitative interviews undertaken with fifty-one families and eleven nannies indicate that this childcare arrangement is complex and involves shifting and divergent constructions of what good parenting and good childcare are. This childcare arrangement often failed because of the complexities of the employer-employee relationship, and a failed attempt at familial attachment. A partial explanation as to why this fails is that some nannies view their employment as a 'bad' parenting strategy, and suggest that it is the parents who should be nurturing the children. This tension around the appropriateness of certain childcare strategies is indicative of discourses of proper parenting and maternal ideals, and is intimately connected to place. Expanding on this theme, interviews were undertaken with ten daycares in the city of Vancouver to examine how discourses of proper parenting are reworked in a 'public' space. This inquiry introduces more directly issues of class, opportunity and the socialization of children. The maternal ideals expressed in the first part of the study are reworked, and sometimes abandoned, in the delivery of public childcare services. Further, there is a process of normalization that takes place in the designation and segregation of children based on age, and whether they are 'typical' or 'special needs'. I argue that greater attention to emotion is needed in the study of childcare, and greater appreciation of difference is needed in the delivery of childcare. This thesis also questions its original premise, that of looking at childcare as public and private options, and of seeing childcare as an employment strategy.

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