Extraordinary normalcy: Home, relationships and identities in narratives of unpaid care


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Abstract

Based on audio diaries and narrative interviews with family carers, this paper suggests care can be understood as an experience of ‘extraordinary normalcy’, meaning that profound shifts in home, relationships and identities take place whilst caring, yet these become part of the normalcy of family life. To maintain and understand a sense of normalcy, our participants utilise professional and technological interventions in the home and draw on notions of responsibility, reciprocity and role-reversal as frameworks for explaining why they continue to care, despite the challenges it brings. The paper considers how domestic activities performed in the home can both highlight the extraordinary aspects of care and help maintain the normalcy of the everyday. Extraordinary normalcy is a concept that problematises definitions of care that remove it from the relational and everyday, yet acknowledges the challenges people face when performing care. This paper contributes to a call for a narrative based development of social policy and makes recommendations for policy and practice based on the in-depth accounts of family carers.HIGHLIGHTSCaring precipitates profound shifts in home, relationships and identities that are incorporated into the everyday.Caring for a family member with additional needs can result in a changing experience of home, relationships and identities.Successful professional or technological interventions in the home are those that facilitate routine and familiarity.Changes or interruption to domestic routines can highlight the challenges of caring and the progression of illness.Notions of responsibility, reciprocity and role-reversal provide explanatory frameworks for caring for a family member.

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