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Whose culture has capital?

Class, culture, migration and mothering

Bin Wu

In no previous generation have so many educated Chinese women with young children immigrated to western countries. Whereas most of the existing research literature in this field tends to study Chinese immigrants in general, this book focuses on a group of skilled female migrant mothers in New Zealand. It aims at understanding the dilemmas and ambiguities particularly concerning skilled female migration: although they belonged to a privileged group in their native land, these women become members of a visible minority in the new country. Middle-class professionals in their birth country, they experience downward social mobility when taking on unskilled jobs in their adopted land; besides having to shoulder heavier domestic workloads as the traditional support for childcare is no longer available in New Zealand. Centering on their mothering practices, this book provides detailed descriptions of how mothers deploy various strategies to maximise the benefits for their children’s education amidst changes and readjustments after migration.


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67 4 The Silent Partners? Pence and Goelman (1987) use the term “silent partners” to describe the lack of parents’ voices in research literature. Reay (1999) employs the phrase “a silent majority” in describing the silence of gendered parenting in the literature. She iterates that while mothers are the primary caregiv- ers who are responsible for their young children’s day-to-day lives, the gender role and the mothers’ contributions are silenced by the gender- neutral term “parents”. This chapter aims to make visible the work of migrant mothers in relation to their children’s early education. In the current project, the participants were generally quiet in their di- rect contacts with mainstream childcare centres. Although they did not try to have their voice heard in mainstream education, the migrant moth- ers deployed a range of strategies to provide what they saw to be the best education and care for their children. Underneath the ‘silence’, the mi- grant mothers were nevertheless proactively involved with their chil- dren’s education outside the home. This chapter presents detailed information in four main areas in order to understand the migrant mothers’ experiences of mainstream early child- hood services in New Zealand: 1) “Our choices” describes the mothers’ decisions to use a particular early childhood service; 2) “Daily communi- cation and dealing with concerns” recounts the daily communication pat- terns between home and centre; 3) “The Portfolio: a critique” presents par- ticipants’ critiques of their children’s portfolios; and 4) “Are they playing or learning?” reports the participants’ views...

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