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  • Author or Editor: Petteri Eerola x
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Finland, as exemplar of the social–democratic welfare regime with generous social policies and a dual-earner model, has recently very intentionally targeted the inclusion of fathers in family policy by revising the fathers’ quota in the parental leave provision. Based on a shared parenting ideology, fathers’ participation in early child care has increased significantly in terms of quantity of time since the 1980s. However, fathers of pre-schoolers still continue to work more hours than any other men in Finland and fathers’ share of all the used parental leave days has increased only relatively slowly. Thus, an important challenge for future family policy will be the focus on incentives that further increase fathers’ take up of parental leave. A major question for empirical research is an examination of the extent to which fathers’ enhanced father involvement in the early years contributes to their long-term future participation in their children’s lives.

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This article explores Finnish different-sex couples’ (n = 12) negotiations on their parental division of labour. Theoretically, the article is based on the literature on gendered parenting practices and relational negotiations. Our discourse analysis reveals how the couples produced ‘togetherness’ and ‘our family’ by representing their care practices as agreements, irrespective of whether the care was described as equally shared or distinctly gendered. Disagreements reflecting more individualistic tones, and mainly resulting from the mothers’ sense of unfairness, were especially foregrounded when the distribution of household duties was discussed. The analysis also revealed how men cited involved fatherhood as a justification for their lesser responsibility for housework, while women sought to reconcile the contradictory discourses of equal parenting and mother’s primacy. Our results show how personal wishes and preferences, work life, family policies and cultural discourses are reflected in couples’ negotiations on parenting practices and moral identities pertaining to ‘good’ motherhood and fatherhood.

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