Vicki Harman

Vicki Harman (University of Surrey) reflects on 10 years of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

How did you hear about the work of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies?

I first became aware of the work of the members of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies through their engaging presentations at conferences. I enjoyed reading Parenting Culture Studies and having met Charlotte Faircloth at a parenting reading group she organised at the University of Roehampton, I became an Associate of CPCS in 2015. Events such as the ‘Personhood and Parenting’ conference, held at the University of Kent (2016) were a great opportunity to come together and to discuss emerging research and ideas.

Is there a particular concept or idea from PCS that you have found useful in your own research? (Please tell us about that research here too, or of course mention if concepts from your own work were influential to PCS)

CPCS has been very influential to my own thinking about and parenting and family life.  The book Parenting Culture Studies (2014) provided an engaging discussion of changes in parenting culture, summarising existing scholarship and raising pertinent questions about intensive mothering in particular. This helped to frame my research on mothers’ perspectives on preparing lunchboxes for their children (with Benedetta Cappellini), and I was pleased to be able to follow up on some of the key themes from this in a symposium and edited book on families and food (co-edited with Charlotte Faircloth and Benedetta Cappellini)

CPCS makes an important contribution in terms of its questioning approach, showing how seemingly neutral advice about parenting can often be subjective and lacking historical context. An early contribution was to analyse and discuss the expectations and ideologies in relation to infant feeding.

I feel that CPCS is on the side of parents and is willing to ‘speak back’ to policy makers and politicians where needed. It is reassuring to know that members of CPCS will be there to offer a critical commentary on whatever policy or practice proposals might emerge in future, and I look forward to further opportunities to discuss parenting and family life!

How, if at all, do you think things have changed in the world of parenting since the publication of ‘Parenting Culture Studies’ (in 2014)? 

Since the publication of Parenting Culture Studies, the expectation that parents will be reliant on the internet and technology to access support and information has continued and intensified. This provides further opportunities to display ‘good parenting’ on social media, forums and more. While technology offers many opportunities, I am concerned about the processes of stigmatisation and exclusion related to these practices. Furthermore, COVID-19 has offered many challenges for parents, including balancing different roles (e.g. home schooling and paid work) and negotiating competing expectations and ideals in the context of changing restrictions.