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We asked that workshop attendees submit one brief scenario, which will be used to encourage discussion at the start of the workshop. Below are the scenarios we received:
Alison works full time. She has two children – one at primary school and one at a local nursery. She enjoys her work, but worries about being judged for returning to work so quickly after they were born. She does not want to be seen as being on the ‘mummy track’ at work and so rarely mentions her children. In comparison, she is aware that her male co-workers are frequently praised for being good fathers when they arrive late or leave early in order to deal with childcare issues. She feels that she needs support to talk through her feelings, but working full time has cut her off from the contacts with other mothers she made on maternity leave.
Gina is on her maternity leave. She looks after her six-month old baby girl and her two-year old son. She uses the smartphone to regularly stay in touch with work but only when her son is not looking because he will otherwise start asking for it. Despite her rules about smartphones being off limits to children, she sometimes lets her son play with hers so she can breastfeed the baby.
Ada is several months into her maternity leave and is often at home alone with her infant son. She does not have to work during these times, but feels that she would like to do some tasks in order to stay connected with her work and colleagues. During the day, Ada spends much of her time engaging actively with her son: playing together, dressing, washing etc.. However, there are also frequent periods of time (often of half an hour or more) in which he is feeding or asleep on her lap. These times provide an opportunity to relax, but are also potential periods in which she may complete simple work tasks. Ada’s main constraint during these times is that the work task must be achievable on her mobile phone – juggling a baby and a laptop is too impractical! When Ada does respond to email and other small work tasks on her mobile device, she can have difficulty communicating to colleagues the limitations imposed by her small screen, mobile input, and brief, often unpredictable, working opportunities. Ada would like to continue engaging when she can, but is frustrated by the expectations this can raise. Ada accesses her laptop infrequently, perhaps once or twice a week when her son is asleep for the evening and there are no other urgent chores to be done (or sleep to catch up on!). When she does access the laptop, it can be difficult for Ada to remember which tasks she had struggled to complete on her mobile phone; her email inbox is full of irrelevant messages and low-priority tasks.
Sarah has been discharged from hospital with her newborn. She struggles to breastfeed, and when reaching out to the midwifery unit of her local hospital, she is told that she no longer has access to their care. Instead, she is referred to a local support group run by volunteers that meets once a week. She doesn’t know how to make it through the next night of continuous, painful breastfeeding.
Nicky’s son started school in September. She had been looking forward to this time as she felt it might be easier to manage her work and home commitments and was excited for her son to learn and have more independence. She had also planned to go for the promotion she had been working towards prior to having her son. However, she soon realised that the expectation of what parents could achieve while working was unrealistic. For the first week her son was only allowed to attend mornings at school, in the second week only afternoons and in the third week he had to come home for lunch every day. School events were also causing problems, school assembly, class assembly, school fairs, school trips(with parent helpers), regular homework and not to mention the mountain of emails and letters asking for money for various things she was really beginning to feel the pressure. She doesn’t have family close by and is struggling to manage everything that is expected of her.
Christine and Alexander are expecting their first baby. At their antenatal classes, the teacher demonstrates the process of breastfeeding using an old doll and a ball. There is awkward silence among the attendees. On the way home, they admit to each other that they are unsure whether breastfeeding is for them.
After her maternity leave, Emily went back to her old job on a flexible schedule. She relies heavily on her devices to support her flexible lifestyle. She was recently offered the promotion she had always wanted. However, she hesitates to accept because she suspects new responsibilities will reduce the time with her family and will make her lifestyle even more stressful. She fears she fails at being a successful working mum.
John is a new father. As an expecting father, he attended a number of pregnancy and birthing classes with his wife at their local hospital. He only had a few days of paternity leave, and his wife has been more involved in caring for their child. After a few months, John starts to feel disconnected from the child. He does not want to discuss the situation with his wife, and is shy about sharing his feelings with medical professionals. He does not know where he can find support and seek advice without being judged.
Donna has been married for seven years and has an eight-week-old baby. New motherhood is different to what she expected. Donna wishes she had more friends with babies as most of her friends have children of school age. Donna describes herself as ‘a people person’ and worked full time, right up to her birth of her son. She thinks of her skills as being work-related and remembers being highly valued as a professional. She also misses the social aspect of working life.