The homing of the home: Exploring gendered work, leisure, social construction, and loss through women’s family memory keeping
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Using a feminist, autoethnographic methodology and in depth interviews with twenty-three participants, I sought to better understand the meaning of family memory keeping for women and their families through this research, paying particular attention to the ways that dominant gender ideologies shape family memory and the act of preserving family memory. This research also endeavoured to explore those instances wherein families lose that memory keeper due to memory loss, absence, or death. Interviews revealed that, despite its absence from the literature, women’s family memory keeping is a valuable form of gendered labour – and leisure – that makes significant individual, familial, and social contributions, while simultaneously reproducing dominant gender ideologies and gendered constructions of fatherhood, motherhood, and the family. Through an exploration of the loss of a mother’s memory due to illness, death, or absence, this study also demonstrated the loss of a mother’s memory is both deeply felt, and deeply gendered. However, this study illustrated participants challenging these dominant gender ideologies, as well, and using family memory keeping as a way to resist, critique, and cope. As such, this study speaks to the absence of women’s family memory keeping from the gendered work, leisure studies, social construction, and loss literature, contributing a better understanding of both the activity itself and the gendered ideologies that shape the activity, as well. Not only does this study speak to gaps in existing literature, but findings make fresh theoretical contributions to this literature through three new concepts: the notion of the good mother as the “remembering mother”, the concept of “compliance leisure”, and the re-envisioning of women’s unpaid labour as contributing to “the homing of the home”. And with these contributions to the literature, this research also provides valuable insight for professionals working to improve policy and services surrounding postpartum care, individual and family therapy, caregiving, extended care, and palliative care.