Doing and Making of Family in pandemic times – Plenum Session – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22ND – 15:15

Family Practices and Relations of First-Time Mothers during COVID-19 – Buler/Pustulka (Warsaw/POL)

Covid-19 and ‘The Making Of’ Family in (Post-)Welfare State Contexts – Grunau/Mierendorff (Halle/GER)

Timetables and Glossy Pictures. Danish families coping with
the Covid-19 lockdown
– Winther/Kousholt/Jordt Jørgensen/Dannesboe/Clemensen (Aarhus/DEN)


Family Practices and Relations of First-Time Mothers During COVID-19 – Buler, Marta / Pustulka, Paula (Warsaw/POL)

The restrictions imposed by the national governments in response to the emergence and spread of the novel coronavirus in 2020 affected various spheres of people’s lives, including the realm of family relations and practices. Unlike other crises, which typically meant that family members rely on one another for emotional and practical support (e.g. Kirchenbaum 2006, Finch, Mason 1992), the pandemic challenges the scope of family solidarities. Early research demonstrates a particular vulnerability of women as mothers, since their reproductive lives and early mothering are subject to significant shifts (e.g. Hjálmsdóttir, Bjarnadóttir, 2020a, 2020b, Power 2020). In connection to the above, this paper explores the particular junction between first-time mothers’ limited capacity to leverage direct support from family members (e.g. grandparents as additional caregivers within first-time parenthood) and their resulting family practices around family relations during the national quarantine and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in Poland. The empirical material stems from the Qualitative Longitudinal Study (QLS) on intergenerational transitions to motherhood in Poland (GEMTRA project, 2018-2021) and features a subsample of biographical interviews (n=22) from the second wave conducted between July and November 2020 with women who gave birth to their first child between February 2019 and March 2020. Dedicated question blocks, including probes on the ongoing experiences of maternity, family relations and family practices during a pandemic, have been incorporated to the research tools of Wave 2, while the data from Wave 1 offers insights into women’s expectations around everyday family practices and intergenerational support. We argue that the crucial stage of family life reified in welcoming the first child (e.g. Miller 2007, Thomson et al. 2011) serves as a special grounds for examining how family relationships are maintained, altered or prioritized during the COVID-19 pandemic. We propose a typology of family relations during the 2020 pandemic through the lens of family practices and with an explicit focus on intergenerational family bonds. Keywords: first-time motherhood; family practices, intergenerational family relations, the COVID-19 lockdown.

Covid-19 and ‘The Making Of’ Family in (Post-)Welfare State Contexts – Grunau, Thomas / Mierendorff, Johanna (Halle/GER)

The proposed presentation deals with the question, if and how the making of family in political discourses has changed since the beginning of the so called Corona-Crisis. This question will be approached from a (post-)welfare state perspective (Mierendorff 2018) and will be answered by means of discourse analysis. The transition from a welfare state to a social-investment state in large parts of (Western) Europe has brought and continues to initiate changes in the early childhood care system. The relationship between the state respectively its institutions and families re-adjusts.In order to prevent certain risks for the child (and the future adult), parents are encouraged to take advantage of public care and education services already at an early stage (Betz und Bischoff 2018). However, it is important not to exceed the limit of “too much” commitment, as can be seen in the discourse on “helicopter parents”. The appearance of the Covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 and the associated political actions open the question of whether there has been either a break or an intensification of this transition to a post-welfare state. This question will be addressed in the proposed presentation. For this purpose, political articulations (Laclau 2005), e.g. from German speaking orders or open letters, will be discourse-analytically examined from a (post-) welfare state perspective. First analyses suggest that there are – similar to the infection incidence during the pandemic in Western Europe – at least two “waves” of political discourse. During the first wave, the demand for re-familialization has been dominant. During the second wave, however, the demand, that children should remain in kindergarten and school, dominates. This argument is justified with potential “learning losses” by children because e.g. home schooling could not be adequately implemented in the families and associated with future economic losses. Children are produced within both waves as passive and future subjects. These initial findings, which need to be differentiated to a greater extent for the presentation, suggest that despite all the shifts in the triangle of family, state and market, there is a stable pattern of institutionalized childhood.


Betz, Tanja; Bischoff, Stefanie (2018): Kindheit unter sozialinvestiven Vorzeichen. In: Andreas Lange, Herwig Reiter, Sabina Schutter und Christine Steiner (Hg.): Handbuch Kindheits-und Jugendsoziologie. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 49–66.

Laclau, Ernesto (2005): On populist reason. London, New York (N.Y.): Verso.

Mierendorff, Johanna (2018): Potentiale eines wohlfahrtsstaatstheoretischen Zuganges in der Kindheitsforschung. In: Tanja Betz, Sabine Bollig, Magdalena Joos und Sascha Neumann (Hg.): Institutionalisierungen von Kindheit. Childhood Studies zwischen Soziologie und Erziehungswissenschaft. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz Juventa (Kindheiten – Neue Folge), S. 129–145.

Timetables and Glossy Pictures. Danish families coping with
the Covid-19 lockdown
– Winther, Ida W. / Kousholt, Dorte / Jordt Jørgensen, Nanna / Dannesboe, Karen Ida / Clemensen, Nana (Aarhus/DEN)

As prime minister Mette Frederiksen locked down Danish society on national television on March 11th, 2020, many families in Denmark faced a radical change in their usual organisation of everyday life. School children and youngsters now had to follow teachers’ hastily produced online classes and assignments from their beds and kitchen tables, and parents had to juggle child care, schooling, work tasks, and housekeeping within the physical context home. On top of these challenges, many were concerned with risks of infection for both themselves and their close and extended family members, along with the pandemic’s long-term effects on both Danish and global society. This paper discusses family life in Denmark during the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020. Based on online ethnography among fifty families, including qualitative interviews, video logs, photos and diaries, we explore families’ everyday experiences and responses to the lockdown. In our material, we observe intermingled responses of fear and relief, tight (self-)management and physical indulgence – responses we perceive as saturated with deep-seated Scandinavian ideals of health, harmony, and efficiency. Many parents, especially mothers, created meticulous timetables for all family members, recalling the tools and discourse of school teachers, along with numerous glossy pictures of home baking and idyllic hikes in nature, which were often posted on social media. Both older and younger family members described experiences of gratitude and both personal and societal privilege, along with growing despair e. g. of physical confinement, economic uncertainty, and absence of colleagues, schoolmates and friends. Drawing on cultural-historical family research and anthropological theories of morality and uncertainty, we analyse the Danish “cultural response” to the pandemic among families with children. More specifically, we address how families deal with uncertainty and new moral demands when all members are “thrown together” at home. Our analysis will center on two issues: Firstly, we explore the display of “family togetherness” as a kind of positive self-image established through shared activities within the family. Secondly, we explore how maintaining physical distance to the outside and balancing work, school and family-life create experiences of cross pressure and loss.