Reflections after discussion “How to Complete the Puzzle: Motherhood, Migration, Career”

On December 16, 2021 Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania together with Vilnius University held a discussion “How to Complete the Puzzle: Motherhood, Migration, Career” on the occasion of the International Migrants’ Day and the closing of the exhibition Portrait of a (Working) Mother by photographer Marina Cavazza and MotherNet coordinator, Eglė Kačkutė. The event was supposed to take place last year but was cancelled due to the pandemic and was thus held a year later.

The discussion was opened by the member of the United Nations Committee of the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women and Girls (CEDAW) and Vytautas Magnus University Professor, Dalia Leinartė. She started the discussion with a reflection on the different meanings behind female figures that personify many Western nation states and with pointing out that Lithuania does not have one. She concluded that the absence of one national female figure might be the reason behind the flexibility of many Lithuanian women and mothers in diaspora. 

Other participants of the discussion were a specialist in Gender Studies, dr. Ieva Bisigirskaitė (Lithuania), and her husband, mathematician and laboratory leader at Vilnius University Life Sciences Centre, dr. Giancarlo Russo (Italy); migration sociologist at the Lithuanian Social Research Centre, dr. Giedrė Blažytė (Lithuania); photographer Marina Cavazza (Italy); and translator Chordana Gonsales Krus (Costa Rica/ Lithuania). The discussion was moderated by the literary and migration scholar at Vilnius University, dr. Eglė Kačkutė (Lithuania).

Dr. Ieva Bisigirskaitė and Giancarlo Russo pointed out that parenting experiences are tremendously influenced by social and cultural structures that either support or fail to support both mothers’ and father’s careers as well as their ability to spend time with their children. Those structures as well as mothering and fathering experiences differ dramatically from country to country even within Europe. Chordana Gonsales Krus also observed that different standards are applied to mothers and fathers whereby looking after the children is taken for granted when it’s done by mothers and perceived as a leisure and pleasurable undertaking when it’s done by the fathers, although the actual experiences of mothers and fathers involved in childcare might be similar. Dr. Blažytė remarked that motherhood as well as migrant status make it harder for women to access the job market and/or develop their careers but oftentimes facilitates cultural integration of mothers through motherhood related community activities.  Whereas Marina Cavazza concluded the talk by saying both family life as well as migration require a tremendous amount of flexibility on the part of everyone involved.

If you want to see the record of this discussion (in Lithuanian), please follow the link below.