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Source: Massey University

Willow Forgeson at the Wellington graduation ceremony.

Willow immersed at Playcentre.




The demands of ‘invisible’ work – parenting and caregiving – did not hinder mother of three and Bachelor of Arts graduate Willow Forgeson from succeeding in her academic goals. But her experiences juggling hidden work with study have inspired her to research the topic further.

Willow will be capped at Massey’s graduation ceremony in Wellington this week with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Anthropology. She is the first in her family to obtain a university degree and is excited to celebrate with them by her side.

While combining study with raising her young family, Willow’s mother became terminally ill with bowel cancer and sadly passed away. During that time Willow, whose three children where under the age of five at the time, took a break from study to navigate the difficult journey of helping care for her mum.

“I have done a lot of care work and in our society it’s a bit of an uncomfortable place to be because it’s not recognised very well,” says Willow.

Based in Titahi Bay, Willow initially embarked on a short spell of acting before beginning her study at Massey in 2010. Spending time at Playcentre Aotearoa with her young children ignited the passion to resume study and helped inform her anthropological interest in mothering. After personal experience, she wanted to make sense and bring to light the value society places on invisible work.

Willow admits being a fulltime caregiver often leaves little room for self-development and that it can seem impossible to achieve anything more than getting through the day.

”Studying at Massey gave me back my sense of self after being a fulltime caregiver and offered me a glimpse of what I was capable of.”

Getting back into study was scary and overwhelming at times, she says, but when in need of motivation she drew inspiration from like-minded tutors. Dr Ella Kahu, who had also studied by distance and was a fulltime caregiver involved in Playcentre, helped encourage Willow to believe she could achieve her dream too.

Completing a degree by distance and raising a young family is no mean feat but throughout the journey Willow received a number of awards, which she says was really affirming.

“Something that mothers don’t receive often enough is the praise for the invisible work they do day in and out,” says Willow, who was pretty chuffed for the recognition along the way.  

Extremely proud to be the first person in her family to obtain a university degree, Willow is continuing to develop her passion by studying towards her Master of Arts in Social Anthropology where she hopes to bring to light the importance of invisible work in society.

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