Cornelia Schadler, Irene Rieder, Eva-Maria Schmidt
Jan 17, 2017
Journal of European Social Policy
The birth of a child often reinforces an unequal division of employment and care work among heterosexual couples. Parental leave programmes that foster long leaves tend to increase this inequality within couples. However, by investigating a particularly long parental leave system, we show that specific practices enable parents to share care work equally. Our ethnographic study includes interviews with heterosexual couples, observations in prenatal classes and information material available to parents. Specific sets of practices – managing economic security, negotiating employment, sharing information with peers and feeding practices – involved parents who shared care work equally and parents who divided care work unequally. Contingent on specific situated practices, the arrangement of care work shifted in an equal or unequal direction. Even within long parental leaves, equality between parents was facilitated when economic security was provided through means other than income, when work hours were flexible, mothers had a close relationship to work, information on sharing equally was available and children were bottle-fed. Consequently, an equal share of care work is not the effect of solely structural, individual, cultural or normative matters, but of their entanglement in practices.