Academic journal article Human Organization

Caring While Missing Children's Infancy: Transnational Mothering among Honduran Women Working in Greater Washington

Academic journal article Human Organization

Caring While Missing Children's Infancy: Transnational Mothering among Honduran Women Working in Greater Washington

Article excerpt

An increasing number of women from developing countries migrate to postindustrial countries while leaving their children at home, incorporating themselves into the reproductive labor market (usually the domestic and elder care sectors) without any kind of official support. Feminist scholars have referred to this phenomenon as the feminization of migration (Graham 1991 ; Salazar Parreñas 2010), focusing on how class, gender, and ethnicity are embedded in this specific labor market (Datta et al. 2006; Hochschild 2000; Lutz 2008). Considering migration as a gendered social phenomenon, scholars have underlined that these migrant women not only cross borders with gendered family responsibilities (Donato et al. 2006; Grasmuck and Pessar 1991; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994; Lan 2003; Mahler and Pessar 2006) but also enter into domestic and care labor sectors regardless of their human capital or legal status (Lutz 2002,2008). In contrast to highly skilled workers, these labor sectors-with a long tradition of social exclusion-have been maintained as an informal labor market without proper regulation because, among other reasons, these jobs have been considered work traditionally performed by females (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001 ; Romero 1992). Since postindustrial household structure is based likewise on pre-industrial values, as Salazar Parreñas (2001) points out, this social phenomenon shows a shift in dependence from national workers to foreign ones in receiving countries, while class is being replaced by ethnicity and national origin in most postindustrial countries (Lutz 2002).

Without considering the social contributions that migrant women make to these sectors, supporting productive labor force and social welfare in postindustrial societies (Lutz 2008), many of them are excluded from immigration legislation, limiting their regularization of their immigration status and, consequently, claims for family reunification. These political restrictions that explain the growth of transnational mothering among women migrants from developing countries have been highlighted by a United Nations (2011:3) report calling attention to "transnational mothering" as a growing social phenomenon:

Migration is mostly a family decision with an increasing number of women migrating, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all migrants. So called "transnational mothering" is a growing phenomenon, where mothers migrate to better provide for their families, commonly accepting lower-paying menial jobs and facing the risk of exploitation. Often, they are able to remain in close contact with their children and other family members, thanks to communication technology advances. At the same time, physical contacts are limited, as Governments often tighten family reunification policies, forcing family members to stay apart.

Globalization, a gender-segmented labor market, and political restrictions therefore explain the growth of transnational motherhood among immigrant women working in postindustrial countries who try to adapt their mothering duties to spatial and temporal separation forced by sociopolitical restrictions (Hondagneu-Sotelo and Avila 1997; Salazar Par- reñas 2001 ). The international division of labor drives most of them to enter reproductive labor sectors while they have to leave the safekeeping of their own children to other women in their homelands-especially their mothers.1

Maintaining traditional family values beyond nation-state borders, such as the logic of family unity (Sánchez Molina 2004) and family gender and intergenerational reciprocity (Dreby 2010; Moran-Taylor 2008), these migrant women have to re-shape their households as transnational families, defined by Salazar Parreña (2001) as domestic units whose members are residing in two or more nation-states (see also Bryceson and Vuorela 2002). Meanwhile, they delegate the safekeeping of their own children to other female relatives-especially their children's grandmothers (Cohen 1979). …

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