So Close, Too Far: Co-designing Meaningful Mothering Experiences Through Products With Mothers Living With SCI
There is a significant gap in the current literature to investigate the construction of meaningful mothering experiences with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). This research applied co-design practice to explore the construction of meaningful mothering experiences through the interplay between mothers with SCI and child-caring products in the home environment.
The first research cycle specifically focused on the experience of mothering with SCI and their challenging activities in the home environment. The findings of Cycle I highlighted that there was a difference between the mothers' physical challenging activities and their meaningful mothering experiences. The findings from Cycle I were applied in Cycle II to better understand the construction of meaningful mothering experiences. The findings of Cycle II revealed the mothers’ interest in using a product instead of relying on a third party in their mothering activities. From the mothers’ perspective, mothering was described as being more than just performing physical tasks, but also a way to express their love to their child. Furthermore, the lack of products which met the mothers’ needs led to limited opportunities for them to interact one-on-one with their children. The mothers’ interest in using a product in mothering activities broadened my focus from only concentrating on child-caring products to products/ furniture in their home environment. Consequently in Cycle III, I explored how products/ furniture could be used to help create more frequent meaningful mothering experiences in their home environment. The mothers’ interest in a one-on-one engagement with their child on the inaccessible floor drew my attention to focus more on ‘fit’ furniture in their home environment. Based on the research findings and co-designing with the mothers two prototypes of the idea of ‘fit’ chairs were developed and shared with the mothers in Cycle IV. According to the findings of Cycle IV, a product which meets the mothers’ needs has a high potential to turn a heart-breaking mothering experience into a meaningful mothering experience.
My findings also demonstrate how the misfit interaction between bodies and material environment can impact on the construction of meaningful mothering experiences with SCI. According to the research findings, the social construction of an ‘able-bodied’ mother and applying the normative approach in product design led the mothers to fit themselves to a misfit environment.