Families, Relationships and Societies
An international journal of research and debate

Displaying parenthood, (un)doing gender: parental leave, daycare and working-time adjustments in Sweden and the UK

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  • 1 Davidson College, USA
  • | 2 Umeå University, Sweden
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Drawing on interviews with 42 parents of preschoolers in Sweden and the UK, we examine how parents display good parenthood in two family policy contexts. In the UK, mothers take longer leave, work part time and limit daycare to demonstrate good motherhood, while fathers continue to work long hours, thereby reinforcing a gendered division of labour. In Sweden, mothers and fathers are more likely to share leave and caring responsibilities, thereby displaying gender equality as well as good parenting. While displaying good parenthood was prominent in parents’ narratives in both countries, differences in policy context matter. Parental leave deliberations and working-time adjustments were closely linked to the display of motherhood in both countries but also the display of fatherhood in Sweden. Daycare is an integral part of displaying parenthood by emphasising not only the benefits to children but also parental care through public appearances.

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  • 1 Davidson College, USA
  • | 2 Umeå University, Sweden

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