On 26 August at 15 Keiu Telve will defend her doctoral thesis „Family Life Across the Gulf: Cross-Border Commuters’ Transnational Families between Estonia and Finland“.
Senior Research Fellow Aimar Ventsel, University of Tartu
Professor Tiit Tammaru, University of Tartu
PhD Mari Korpela, University of Tampere
PhD Maarja Kaaristo, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Tartu
The dissertation, based on five independent articles, explores cross-border long interval commuting between Estonia and Finland. More specifically, how working in another country has impacted unskilled and skilled labour migrants’ family-life and relations with their nuclear families back in Estonia. Many aspects of labour migration are actually connected with family issues, gender expectations, and everyday transnational practices that at the same time allow and force them to span family life across the two countries. Six-year-long ethnographic research shows the changes in family structures that may appear due to the impact of the new culture and social norms, a new work and leisure balance, and the growing need for emotional close relations due to the physical distance. Cross-border commuting is not easy — it is emotionally difficult, physically demanding, time-consuming, and as well as requires constant adaptability. Also, the public opinion and rumours make the family life across borders especially difficult. At the same time, it is visible that cross-border commuting is a calculated life-choice that can be seen as a rather permanent decision that is followed by different economic and social changes that starts from changes in work-rhythm. The research shows the transmission of family-centred values from Finland to Estonia and witnesses how fatherhood, masculine care-taking patterns, and ways to talk about family life change. Transnational fathers are present in family life not only through remittances; they attempt to be involved using communication technologies and visiting and they think a lot about how they can and will maintain a good connection with their families back in Estonia. Even when mainly the men commute, their families are very much involved. Mobile family life needs full commitment and collaboration between family members and the whole family can be characterised as transnational.