• The Plastic Ceiling Project: Representing the Pain of Mothers that Work and Study

      Adams, Jeff; Bamber, Sally; Misra, Sarah (University of Chester, 2019-08-27)
      My previous research around mothers that work and study, showed that many of their everyday, emotional experiences could be regarded as “unseen” in that they were routine, invisible and unnoticed and were often played out in private. For those experiences that could be regarded as emotionally painful, their “unseen” nature was further complicated as tendencies toward denial, withdrawal, and self-isolation were common reactions to deeply felt emotional pain. Thus, these experiences were frequently concealed in two ways as they were both “unseen” and hidden. A fundamental principle of feminist research is to liberate by exposing, that which is concealed and suppressed and to make feminine lived experiences visible. Modern, feminist research uses a wide range of research methods and in recent years, arts-based and narrative research have emerged as disciplines from within the broader field of qualitative research. Feminist scholars have found visual, narrative inquiry methods to be useful tools in obtaining rich data from traditionally marginalised perspectives and have stressed the transformative opportunities for the development of continuities between the “unseen” and the “seen” through potential to reveal and expose hidden oppression, promote empathetic understanding of the ways in which people experience their worlds and present new opportunities for communication, protest and campaign I believe that artists and ethnographers often share strong, emancipatory affinities through their research intentions and so could productively collaborate and learn from each others’ practices. An artist-practitioner and mother myself, I also had responsibility for leading the postgraduate teacher training provision in a local university full-time and studying for a doctorate and I became interested in the potential of using arts-based, ethnographic research to investigate and tell the stories of other working/studying parents. I was particularly interested in findings from previous research which had identified that whilst all parents routinely reported similar issues around practical issues of balancing multiple roles; the painful, emotional aspects of managing life as a working/studying mother were exclusively female territory and had been described by almost every female participant as pernicious, significant and disempowering aspects of their lived experiences. I set up The Plastic Ceiling Project with the intention of developing an arts-based research methodology unequivocally and explicitly grounded in emancipatory feminist principles. My initial research question was simply; “why do mothers that work and study often report painful emotions such as guilt, shame, frustration, anger, and loneliness?” This work is an exploration of The Plastic Ceiling Project and its effectiveness in realising these challenges.