Artist: Beatriz Aurora, Chiapas, Mexico.
This work describes how my own definition, process, and experience of caring and fieldwork have evolved over the past twenty years, from the time my mother passed away and I entered the professional world to when I became a mother, quite unexpectedly, at age forty. It positions fieldwork as providing the context and opportunity for a developmental journey, not unlike those accompanying motherhood, with its stages of initiation, incoherence and integration. Becoming a mother was the catalyst I needed to let go of previous conceptions of what practicing social science and justice work should look like. This meant releasing the notion that I had to remain a detached observer, accepting the impossibility of work-life balance, and disconnecting my sense of self-esteem from the validation of the academy. This level of new found acceptance arose following what Brown (in Cunningham 2012) describes as a “willingness to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth” and from an increasing concern with how to make my call to social justice work sustainable alongside my call to be a good mother. Occupying dual work-life roles meant redefining my value not so much in terms of the standard audit culture—meeting economistic goals of efficiency and performance outcomes—but in terms of valuing the practical wisdom my lived experience as a mother-scientist brings to the fields of relationships I encounter every day.