Many of the Nordic countries have designed parental leave policies in ways that can promote participation of fathers in child care. Norway was the first country to introduce a father-specific leave quota in 1993. This quota is non-transferable and generously paid, and Norway has functioned as a sort of laboratory for testing such radical policies. This book is a collection of research publications from three studies conducted at various stages since the introduction of the quota. It looks at its various design characteristics and possible consequences such as take-up, framing of the leave, what fathers do when on leave, how they develop as caregivers and competent parents, how working life relates to male employees with care obligations in terms of parental leave, how fathers adapt their leave to work and how immigrant fathers relate to the laws and expectations directed to fathers in Norway. Although the chapters are based on different qualitative studies, they show changes in employed men’s fathering practices over the years and how the parental leave design may have contributed to this change.
The chapter directs attention to work-life balance after the leave, asking what consequences the leave experience has for fathers’ work involvement. The fathers describe becoming a father and caring for a one-year old as an emotional and existential experience that have changed them as men. The question posed in the chapter, is what consequences this experience has for their efforts and time-use at work. Judging from the literature, reduction in working hours is rarely an option for men, but the changes reported by the fathers, impact on their boundary management between home and work. Several strategies are used to reduce the time demands of work in order to benefit time with their children, and four such strategies are described.
This concluding chapter discusses the ways in which the parental leave design in terms of the father’s quota may have consequences for change in fatherhood and caregiving and thus for the wider processes of change towards a dual earner/dual carer model. It highlights change in fathers’ sense of entitlement to leave, which has made it into a norm. Aspects such as flexible use and the possibility for mothers to stay home are identified to harm the process of change towards dual caring. A focus on the content of the leave identifies further aspects of change in the father-child relation and care competence of fathers in the direction of caring masculinities. Working life’s supportive role contributes to placing a change of the ideal worker norm within sight.
Research has documented that fathers in countries with individualized, non-transferable parental leave policies take leave to a greater extent than in other countries. Studies have not, however, explored the processes of constructing these outcomes. We have investigated this issue by means of interviews with middle-class immigrant fathers from various European countries to Norway. The ‘outsider-within’ perspective represented by immigrants’ experiences is our intake to understanding this. Results show that the principle of earmarking and non-transferability combined with a generous income compensation is experienced as a great possibility to care for children and perceived as important. It is in comparison with the care regimes of their homelands that this insight becomes perceptible. These results can be seen as supporting the tendency to convergence, not in the actual care policies, but in the attitudes toward parental leave held by the fathers from these countries.
Nordic countries lead the way in facilitating better work-family integration through their design of parental leave policies that encourage men towards life courses with greater care responsibilities.
Based on original research, this compelling book offers a novel analysis of the everyday parental practices of fathers and parents in Norway as a way of understanding the workings of labour market and welfare policies, whilst considering how migrant fathers might relate to the expectations such laws generate. The authors showcase how this style of men’s care work constitutes a re-gendering of men by promoting ‘caring masculinities’.
The research question is what fathers do when home on parental leave without the mother. During the period the quota has existed the father’s quota has been substantially extended. Based on interviews with fathers, who have used 10 and 12 weeks leave, this article aims to explore how being home alone has impacted their caring practices. When the fathers describe their experiences, they focus on care work as hard work. While fathers staying at home on a shorter leave right after the introduction of the quota concentrated on taking care of their children, and housework was an area of conflict in the family, the current fathers integrate cleaning and cooking with caring. Because the current generation of home-alone fathers are home for a longer period and have the primary responsibility for their children’s well-being, they also seem to develop stronger emotional ties and relational competence.
In most countries, parental leave systems consist of several parts with different lengths for fathers and/or mothers. We compare fathers’ sense of entitlement to two parts of the Norwegian leave policy available to them, namely the individual, non-transferable father’s quota and the shared parental leave. The objective is to gain knowledge of the rationale for fathers’ different take-ups of the two types of leave. Analysis of interviews with 22 fathers shows culturally divergent understandings of the two types of leave among fathers. Using the concept of ‘entitlement’ as theoretical lens, we find that fathers feel entitled to the father’s quota based on gender equality norms in working life and the wider society. Fathers do to a much smaller degree feel entitled to the shared parental leave, which is culturally understood as mothers’ entitlement. This understanding is, however, challenged by some fathers’ claim to the shared leave based on their being competent parents.
Research on work-family balance has seen flexible work arrangements as a key solution for reconciling work and family, but it has given contradictory results regarding fathers. This chapter focuses on flexible parental leave use for fathers in Norway. It is based on interviews with 20 fathers who have used the father’s quota flexibly either as part-time combined with part-time leave or as piecemeal leave. The study describes the motives for using flexible leave and the consequences of the two types of flexibility for fathers’ caregiving. Flexibility provides them with a menu of choices, which affects their caregiving differently. Findings show that part-time leave allows work to invade care, produces a double stress and promotes halfway fathering. It tends to confirm fathers as secondary caregivers instead of empowering them as primary caregivers.
This chapter compares fathers who have been home on leave alone with fathers who took their leave with the mother also at home. The analysis finds distinct differences between the two leave situations and their consequences for the father-child relation, his ability to understand their non-verbal language of and his development into a confident and competent caregiver. The situation where the mother is also at home, means that she continues in her role as the primary parent, translating the child’s language to the father, which means that he assumes status as a supporting player and an assistant. He looks forward to the child growing older for him to become a more central dad and companion.
There has been a concern that Norwegian family policies may be problematic for immigrants because such policies carry normative expectations about gender equal divisions of work and care. The study explores how immigrant fathers to Norway frame taking parental leave and practicing childcare. Parental leave for fathers, being rare or non-existent in their home countries, is justified in a favorable way to their family and friends at home. Hence, in a transnational perspective, the leave is narrated into an account of the auspicious aspects of their life in a new country, and they oppose being defined as lesser men because of having to take leave. The analysis shows that staying home with the child increases their capacity to provide emotional and practical care for their children. They situate themselves in terms of what they understand to be the dominant understandings of fatherhood. This is the “involved father frame”, which may be variable in content but fits well in a Norwegian discourse.