Interviewing Mothers: Reflections on closeness and reflexivity in research encounters
Heather Elliott is a freelance researcher and writer. Her current research interests include mothering (specifically mothers' relationships to paid work and 'motherwork') and qualitative methodologies to explore the unsayable. She has also published research on lay and professional knowledges and the provision of care, on how research evidence is used within policy and on public health and inequalities.
Taking as a starting point the idea that a researcher's subjectivity is data and a resource for interpretation, I write about my own experience of combining motherhood and paid work, undertaking a psychosocial study of first time motherhood. I reflect on the emotional work involved in undertaking fieldwork and engaging with different texts about the maternal, when the research topic is close to the stuff of one's life. I then set this writing and the feelings it evokes alongside a case study from the research project, in order to explore how a researcher can notice herself, in research encounters with others, and with texts, in ways which make the reflexive self visible. The data I use are drawn from a project entitled Becoming Bangladeshi, African Caribbean and White mothers: identities in process, part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Identities and Social Action programme.