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Accepted Paper:

Ruptures and Negotiations: Identifying boundaries in Au pair and Host family interactions in Ireland  
Miriam Teehan (Maynooth University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine the negotiation of boundaries in the home between the au pairs and their host families. These include boundaries in the context of space, time, sociocultural practices, and behaviours.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will focus on the positionality of the au pair’s designated private space in relation to the entire house. I argue that it is difficult to identify boundaries in the home until a boundary is breached for both au pairs and their host family. An unfolding of spatial and personal boundaries becomes evident through rupture. How these ruptures are resolved are key to continuing a successful working relationship.

How are boundaries negotiated and who can set them? For some host families it is through a detailed written contact and written guidelines for au pairs to follow , or it is expressed verbally through subtle or non-subtle indications regarding their positionality in the home; for others it is through the material objects placed in the au pairs bedrooms which mark a separation or difference from other rooms and can be an indication that their presence in other spaces in the home is not welcomed Some host families may not intend on upsetting the au pair, they may do it as a gesture of respect for the au pair’s private time. For the au pair it can feel like they have received the “hint” that they are not welcome to participate in family activities nor the freedom to use the family kitchen or tv. Au pairs, on the other hand, have less ability to set boundaries within the home. They may resort to leaving the home to ensure they get ‘time off’ from family responsibilities. For some host families and au pairs, the concept of boundaries is not easily defined, or the acknowledgment of their own boundaries are not understood until they have been breached. The ability to negotiate these ruptures by re-drawing a boundary is key to a successful working relationship.

Panel P051
Bordering and establishment of gray zones in context of migration, health care and social welfare in Europe
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -