Spatio-Temporality of Cross-Border Parenting and Familyhood before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Other Conference Paperpeer-review


Despite the proliferation of cross-border family and migration studies, most previous research foregrounded the spatiality of migration experiences, leaving the temporal a subordinate dimension in the examination of migration. As a result, time and temporality are seldom used as central analytical lens to understand how migrants do family and parenting across the border. To fill this lacuna, this article adopts a temporal lens to examine how parents in Mainland Chinese-Hong Kong cross-border families arrange and negotiate care and education for their citizen and non-citizen children. To illuminate how the temporal has shaped and structured the trajectories and functioning of cross-border families, we reveal how parenting and care arrangements evolved when the border separated the cross-border parents from their spouses and/or children before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (when the border was almost completely closed). Drawing on in-depth interview and ethnographic data collected from 134 parents and children in cross-border families, we show how temporal constraints (such as visa validity given by governments) propelled or compelled cross-border parents to utilize frequent border crossings (on a daily or weekly basis) as a strategy to maintain familyhood before the pandemic, and how such spatial flexibility was disabled when a range of lockdown measures and social distancing restrictions were put in place on both sides of Mainland China and Hong Kong during the pandemic. The intense sense of uncertainty, fear and isolation developed along the prolonged waiting for border reopening made cross-border parenting even more daunting during pandemic times, which required cross-border parents to devise adaptative strategies to make education and care arrangements for their children and to maintain familyhood. As we illustrate how the temporal and the spatial shapes and structures each other, we underscore the importance of analysing the temporal alongside the spatial when examining cross-border parenting and familyhood.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023
EventInternational workshop on “Transnational Families and the Second Generation in Asia” - , Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 19 Jul 202320 Jul 2023


WorkshopInternational workshop on “Transnational Families and the Second Generation in Asia”
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China


  • familyhood
  • spatio-temporality
  • COVID-19
  • Hong Kong


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