About Making Modern Motherhood

The Making Modern Motherhood research project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council between 2005 and 2010 and conducted by a team of researchers based at the Open University: Rachel Thomson, Mary Jane Kehily, Lucy Hadfield and Sue Sharpe. At the heart of the study are interviews with over 60 expectant first time mothers – ranging in age from 15 to 48 – and diverse in many other ways. Twelve families allowed us to follow them over the first year of their new life as parents and we remained with case study families until the end of the study in 2010 when their children were four years old. A book called Making Modern Mothers presents the findings of the first stage of the study and was published by the Policy Press in 2011.

Subsequently we secured further funding from the Economic and Social Research Council for a methodological innovation project called Face 2 Face: Tracing the 'real' and the mediated in children's cultural worlds, through the National Centre for Research Methods. As part of this project we have been able to follow the 6 children whose birth was the focus of the MoMM project – repeating the day-in-a- life and 'favourite things' interview with them at the age of 7 years old. The project, now based at the University of Sussex also includes a new panel of young people ('the teenagers') whose archives can be linked to from this site. We have funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project called 'Curating Childhoods' to explore the ethical and technical challenges involved in documenting the lives of children and young people in a digital age. The documents from this research will form part of the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex.
In this website we present some of the material collected from our 6 case study families during the different stages of the study.

The first part of this is the 'day in a life' micro-ethnographies which involved researchers spending an ordinary day with mothers, shadowing them in the everyday work of being a mum. Our aim was to document the mundane and time consuming business of parenthood while also showing the very different lives of women mothering at the same historical moment. Motherhood is both one and many things – bringing women together while also reinforcing divisions between them. It transforms women's lives, demanding that they step out of previous habits and identities, yet it can also be a conservative moment when we defend what we have and affirm continuities with the past.
We also include 'favourite things' interviews with the children of the families aged 7 years old. This method, first used in our project with the grandmothers, invites participants to choose and talk about objects that represent their past, present and future. These interviews capture the ways in which children can be nostalgic about their childhoods as-they-happen, as well as revealing the different temporalities that shape their lives: the fast changes of technological development and crazes, the slower evolution of hobbies and interests and the recursive temporalities of family stories, mementos and heirlooms.

The participants involved in the study have agreed to the material being used on this website.
All names have been changed.

How to use this site

Go to the links on the menu to explore the interactive case studies of each mother and child as observed by the researcher. Please note that these multi-media pages may take a little while to load.

DAY IN THE LIFE 2008 Combining photos, audio and graphics into panoramas, these pages offer a taste of ordinary maternal work and the lives of children over the course of a single day. Use your mouse or the navigation buttons to scroll through the timeline from left to right.

FAVOURITE THINGS 2013 Find and click on photographs of objects in each child's home space to hear them speak. As above, use your mouse and scroll wheel to move and zoom in the virtual space.

DAY IN THE LIFE 2014 These can be experienced as interactive multi-media presentations either online, using 'Prezi', or offline as downloadable Powerpoints navigated by clickable hyperlinks. This time we follow each child through a day, rather than their mother.