Couples' Transitions to Parenthood
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Couples' Transitions to Parenthood

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.
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Chapter 6: The part-time story: Dutch couples at the life-course transition to parenthood

Mirjam Verweij and Maria Reimann


Over the past three decades the division of work and care in the Netherlands shows a turn from the male breadwinner model to a one-and-a-half-earner model in which the father works full or almost full-time, the mother works part-time and after work-hours childcare is shared between the parents. Dutch parents-to-be interviewed for this study considered both parents to be equally well equipped to care for a baby, while at the same time being able to provide different kinds of care. However, although parental sharing seems to be the ideal, it is not understood by the interviewed couples as an equal sharing of care work. The couples emphasized that the mothers plan to do slightly more childcare, which was usually framed either as a preference or as resulting from demands in favour of the men’s career. The planned period of exclusive maternal homemaking was limited to the three months of paid maternity leave. Paid work and motherhood were seen as absolutely compatible. Most of the couples in this study planned for both parents to take part-time unpaid parental leave. Most of the interviewed women already worked part-time at the time of pregnancy, while the men reported that they were planning to take one day off per week to take care of the child. For the remaining two or three days the parents planned to send the baby to a childcare centre, which are generally available on a part time basis. Hence, Dutch couples construct ‘good’ parenthood in terms of doing ‘most’ of the childcare at home, while allowing for the baby to attend part-time childcare as early as three to four months after birth. There, according to the parents, children learn early-on how to be social with others.

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