The research question spurring this edited volume was why European couples living fairly egalitarian lives adopt traditional gender practices at the transition to parenthood. Based on in-depth interviews with 167 couples in eight European countries, this chapter pulls the findings from the different country studies together and draws conclusions in light of the conceptual framework and the guiding research question. The interviews illustrate how parents-to-be enacted agency in diverse institutional and social contexts. The chapter highlights the role of family policies in the couples’ struggle to adapt to, or resist, socially desired paths and patterns of change during the transition to parenthood. We discuss the findings concerning these macro-micro links in comparative perspective, focusing on mothering and fathering ideals, the dominant gender culture, family policies and the policy-culture gaps that arise when the gender culture does not correspond with existing family policies. Our findings suggest that gendered preferences of work-care divisions partly result from country-specific interplays of the dominant gender culture and family policies. Dominant ideas about ‘naturally becoming’ a mother were followed by a perceived need to actively socially construct fatherhood. Institutions further shaped ideas about working mothers and the extent to which mothers-to-be – but not fathers-to-be – had resigned to the idea that their career would have to suffer as they became parents. The ways in which institutional structures limited possible choices and beliefs about ‘how to do things right’ were linked in ways that often went unnoticed by the couples themselves. As a result, those struggling to live up to the dominant gender culture not only experienced uncertainty about the future, they also often blamed themselves for not being the kind of parents (often mothers) that they desired to be. Contrary to the construction that these are individual or individuals’ issues, the comparative evidence suggests that many of the gendered choices and resulting problems encountered by parents-to-be have an institutional foundation. In essence, our comparative findings highlight the need for family policies to offer working mothers a minimum of six months of financially compensated leave, in line with World Health Organization breastfeeding advice, the need for reliable childcare following the period of paid care leave for parents, and a combination of income related compensation and legally enforced job guarantees as a precondition for fathers to consider claiming care leave. Given the high number of self-employed in some countries, we find it important that job guarantees apply to all women and men irrespective of the type of employment contract, as suggested by the EU directive on parental leave (Council directive 2010/18/EU). Elucidating these links between gendered processes of identity construction, couples’ work-care plans and the policy-culture gap is thus the main contribution of this book.
Marie Evertsson and Daniela Grunow
Analysing Gender and Work in Europe
Edited by Daniela Grunow and Marie Evertsson
It is common for European couples living fairly egalitarian lives to adopt a traditional division of labour at the transition to parenthood. Based on in-depth interviews with 334 parents-to-be in eight European countries, this book explores the implications of family policies and gender culture from the perspective of couples who are expecting their first child. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe is the first comparative, qualitative study that explicitly locates couples’ parenting ideals and plans in the wider context of national institutions.
Daniela Grunow and Gerlieke Veltkamp
All over Europe, the social conditions under which couples become parents in the early twenty-first century differ markedly from those of their parents’ generation. Unlike earlier cohorts, today’s women and men tend to have quite similar life experiences and skills when they form a couple and decide to start a family. Yet, research shows that couples still appear to be giving up gender equal divisions of labour in favour of more traditional family arrangements upon entering parenthood. This chapter presents the theoretical and analytical framework used in this book to assess the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of these transitions in eight European countries. It explicitly locates couples’ beliefs and negotiations in the wider context of national institutions, such as national family policies, employment protection, care provision and gender ideologies about motherhood and fatherhood. In particular, the chapter introduces the notion of policy-culture gaps as a tool to analyse varying degrees of fit between national family policies and key dimensions of dominant gender culture.
Edited by Daniela Grunow and Marie Evertsson
Why do European couples living fairly egalitarian lives adopt a traditional division of labour at the transition to parenthood? Based on in-depth interviews with 334 parents-to-be in eight European countries, this book explores the implications of family policies and gender culture from the perspective of individual couples who are expecting their first child. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe is the first comparative, qualitative study which explicitly locates couples’ parenting ideals and plans in the wider context of national institutional structures. These structures embody different degrees of congruence between national family policies, employment protection, care provision and the dominant gender culture in the early twenty-first century. The book applies a novel analytical framework to detect these policy-culture gaps which serve as points of reference for the parents-to-be studied in this volume. The book shows how the parents’ agency varied along with the policy-culture gaps in their own countries and provides evidence of their struggle to adapt to, or resist, socially desired paths and patterns of change during the transition to parenthood. Evidence of a misfit between family policy and gender culture is widespread in the interviews in serval of the countries, thus weakening expectant parents’ potential to share paid and unpaid work more equally. The eight country studies in this volume provide novel insights into how dual-earner couples in Europe planned for the division of paid work and care during the transition to parenthood. In addition, three comparative chapters illuminate why transitions to parenthood differed in distinct institutional and situational contexts and why even egalitarian-minded couples often experienced this transition as gendered. The ways in which institutional structures limit possible choices and beliefs about ‘how to do things right’ are linked in ways that often go unnoticed by social scientists, policy makers, and by parents themselves. To elucidate these links is what the editors consider the main contribution of this book. Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood: Analysing Gender and Work in Europe provides: • A unique, comparative and in-depth analysis of transitions to parenthood in contemporary Europe, focusing on Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Poland • Cutting edge comparative qualitative methodology and innovative combination of macro and micro data • New theoretical insights into the link between structure and agency • Analysis of social policies and their impact on individual parents-to-be
Sandra Buchholz and Daniela Grunow
Daniela Grunow and Søren Leth-Sørensen
This chapter discusses the methodological choices which provide the foundations for this edited volume. The methods applied have been chosen to disentangle the interrelationship between the individual and institutional factors contributing to the gendered division of labour. These factors come together in complex ways to produce and to some extent exaggerate a gendered transition to parenthood, as biological, social and institutional aspects reinforce each other, and thus contribute to gendered constructions of motherhood and fatherhood. The analyses that this book is based on are drawn from semi-structured interviews with working couples expecting their first child in eight European countries. The qualitative approach used allows for an in-depth analysis of men’s and women’s various experiences and struggles during this transition. We first outline the maximum variation design reflected in the selection of countries, then turn to the theory-based homogenous sampling strategy underlying the recruitment of couples and elaborate on the advantages of applying a linked lives perspective. Finally, we describe the central features of the 167 couples analysed in this volume.