chapter  8
16 Pages

Shaping children’s mobilities: expectations of gendered parenting in the English rural idyll

ByPhoebe Foy-Phillips, Sally Lloyd-Evans

This paper explores the impact of local parenting practices on children’s everyday use of public

space within two villages in the rural South West of England, and it draws upon the concept of

hybridity as a trajectory for understanding the interplay between the social, natural and the

material in shaping cultures of rural parenting (Whatmore 2002). Through empirical research

that seeks to better understand the relationships between gendered parenting strategies, idealised

notions of rural motherhood and materiality, the paper explores the complex and diverse ways in

which a group of working and middle-class mothers construct and define ideas about appropriate

parenting that shape children’s lives in the English countryside. Despite a rich and insightful

body of geographical literature on the mythical ‘rural idyll’ that has emerged over the last

decade (see Bunce 1994, 2003, Cloke and Little 1997, Cloke 2003, Little and Leyshon 2003,

Freeman 2010), there is still a tendency for ‘rural culture’ and identity to be expressed as a singu-

lar form which homogenises rural lives and the everyday geographies of family life. While

notions of the countryside as a safer and freer space to bring up children still remain in opposi-

tion to fears of urban danger (Valentine 1997), it is increasingly apparent that such binary rep-

resentations are masking the highly localised and diverse parenting strategies that are taking

place within contemporary rural spaces. Yet, such recognition has not been accompanied by

the growth of empirical research and grounded knowledge on the socio-spatial and material pro-

cesses that influence everyday family decisions about children’s use of rural space, and the ways

in which these are embedded in place.