Fatherhood and family are social phenomena that – and this is often forgotten – are bound by a specific spatial organisation in definite spatial contexts and at definite places or are constructed starting from these places (see Aitken, 2009). Until now, studies on fathers and their practices seldom observe their social and spatio-temporal situation (see Marsiglio et al. 2005). As a typical spatio-temporal structured and structuring context of the familial everyday life after separation and divorce (see Schier, 2016), residential multi-locality nevertheless involves specific demands on fathering; this is the focus of the present article.
In more than three-quarters of all cases, children in Germany spend more time in the maternal home after a separation – in correspondence with a gender-typical division of labour and concept of parenthood frequently experienced prior to separation – even if they also periodically spend their daily routine with their fathers (see Geisler et al. 2018). Fathers and their children live together only part-time after a separation and live spatially separated from each other for, more or less, long periods. Thus, fatherhood can obviously no longer be performed in co-presence but rather must be constructed intermittently from a distance and under conditions of periodically shuttling children between the parental homes.
This article addresses the experiences, practices, and difficulties of the construction of post-separation fatherhood based on the results of ethnographical studies on the ‘multi-locality of families'. After a brief review of current literature, the second section explains central conceptual assumptions about fathering as a social practice. Following this, information on the methodological design is provided. In section four, results of fathering in brief co-present periods as well as media- and mobility-based fathering practices are presented. The final section briefly sums up the main points.