"How is distance grandparenting for you?" A study of long haul, New Zealand distance grandparents and inter-generational transnational familying : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This thesis is the first academic study of New Zealand distance grandparents by a New Zealander. It is based on eight, in-depth qualitative, ethnographic interviews with distant grandparents whose global families live 20 – 30 hours flight travel away. I ask the question: “How is distance grandparenting for you?” My findings complement, to a large degree, the existing handful of similar global studies of this prolific but little researched contemporary kinship phenomenon. The participants’ responses and my analysis contribute to this literature by focusing on communication, the ambiguity of relationships, emotions, ‘being there’ and the practical realities, now and into the future. I bring to this discussion three factors which combined promise a unique contribution. First, I have known my participants for an average of 14 years. This infuses, on occasions, a deeper discerning to the participants’ responses that goes beyond our 1½ hour formal interviews and assists to paint a more longitudinal picture of each family ‘package’. Second, I am a 20+ year veteran of transnational familying with most, not just some, of my family living permanently far overseas. This affords me the opportunity, via autoethnographic methods, to weave an additional insider richness by way of personal reflections, encounters and storytelling. Finally, during the lead up and delivery of this project I lived through some of the most challenging times of my own transnational kinship journey. Rather than keep these family trials and tribulations private, I have shared them, exposing my vulnerability and a rawness of emotion that takes the reader to a place and understanding of transnational, intergenerational familying they may not have otherwise got to (Ruth Behar 1996:14). My argument is straightforward: how distance grandparenting is for my participants is the product of several interacting factors: their personal situation, their distance family and in-country family relationships, geographical boundaries and time zone restrictions along with cultural, religious and language issues. Furthermore, for my distance grandparents ‘Place’ is multi-sited: physically and psychologically. Distance grandparenting is ever changing, evolving and on occasions can be a lonely place. In general, my New Zealand distance grandparents ‘make the most’ of their situations accepting the good with the bad, the ‘pros and the cons’, and maintain an upbeat stance.
Grandparent and child, Grandparenting, Intergenerational relations, New Zealand, Emigration and immigration, Social aspects