Transnational Grandparenting: Intergenerational Kinship Support among Ethiopian Migrant Families in Washington, D.C. and Addis Ababa

Author: 
Aida Esther Kassaye

Transnational Grandparenting: Intergenerational Kinship Support among Ethiopian Migrant Families in Washington,D.C. and Addis Ababa

Author: Aida Esther Kassaye

ABSTRACT

This research report examines a range of intergenerational caregiving patterns within Ethiopian migrant households in the U.S., described as ‘transnational grandparenting’. It covers both caregiving situations that require Ethiopian grandparents to fly over to the U.S. in order to help with the household and babysitting, and arrangements in which grandparents in Ethiopia care for their – either ‘left-behind’ or U.S.-born – grandchildren. These transnational care arrangements were studied through five months of ethnographic fieldwork among twenty-one Ethiopian transnational families livingin Washington, D.C. and Addis Ababa. The report shows that a combination of socioeconomic factors and values related to the maintenance of traditions and to childrearing play decisive roles in the formation of transnational care arrangements. While the arrangement is meant to offer relief to the parents and create a natural bond with Ethiopia for the children, I argue that the phenomenon produces various contradictions in terms of familial expectations and obligations, and leads to the need for renegotiating cultural notions of upbringing and family values. Parents and grandparents in Ethiopia and the U.S. experience and reflect upon transnational commitments in different ways, ultimately illustrating the implications of transnationalism on family relationships and family organisation. Such family negotiations, I argue, can only be understood by studying both ends of the transnational family.