Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

When Men Become Fathers: Men's Identity at the Transition to Parenthood

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

When Men Become Fathers: Men's Identity at the Transition to Parenthood

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Becoming a father is a crucial change within the life course, fatherhood thus having to be integrated into male idetity. The transition to parenthood will very likely change fathers' relationships with their partners (Ahlborg et al., 2009; Houts et al., 2008; et al., 2007), their families (Bell et al., 2007), and their social environments (Maurer, 2007). It will also change their habits spending leisure time, affect their working lives, and is likely to transform them into individuals who cherish interests and values that are different than before this transition. (Claxton and Perry-Jenkings, 2008; Nomaguchi and Bianchi, 2004). During the process of pregnancy and within the first months with their new baby, parents are forced to get used to their new position, as well as to concomitant changes (Bell et al. , 2007). The new being requires 24-hour care and is to be fed, dressed and diaper-changed. Parents have to buy furniture, buggies, toys, food and clothes for their child. Hence having a baby is a major physical, psychical and financial effort. Both parents are called to negotiate the tasks and the kinds of involvement with reject to their child. How parents divide the tasks concerning caring and breadwinning is connected to current discourses about parenthood and the associated structures and options for agency. Our paper aims to review how the narrations of fathers in Vienna (Austria) regarding their caring practices, emotions and self -perceptions are mediated through these discourses.

The literature on fathers' studies identifies two main discourses concerning heterosexual couples: the breadwinner discourse, defining fathers primarily as financial caretakers, and the "new fathers" discourse that describes men who are highly involved in caretaking practices (e.g. , Lamb, 1987; LaRossa, 1988; Coltrane, 1596) . Since the late 60's, the phenomenon of a new and nurturing father has been described and discussed (LaRossa, 1988; Lamb, 1987). The traditional European and North American picture of the breadwinning father and the caretaking mother was questioned and described as a model that will became increasingly obsolescent in the next decades (e.g. , Coltrane, 1596). Masculinity was attributed a crisis from which emerge new options of agency for men (Meuser, 1998; Kimmel, 2000; Connell 1995). Pro-feminist and critical men's movements claimed equal access to resources for all groups within society and therefore also called for an equal division of tasks and responsibilities (Heam and Morgan, 1990; Höfner, 2007). The "new man" would share domestic and breadwinning tasks equally with their partners.

Yet it also became obvious that those where persistent discourses, while actual practices and the division of responsibility remained very nuch the same (LaRossa, 1988; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1992; Ostner, 1998) . Recent studies exploring the use of time show that most couples experience a retraditionalization of gender roles after the birth of their first child or often already during pregnancy (e.g., Baxter et al., 2008; Dribe and Stanfors, 2009; Nomaguchi, 2009). As a result, men concentrate on their jobs and take up the financial responsibility for their families, While most women do less paid work and take parental leave (Dribe and Stanfors, 2009). Even when women work for the same amount of hours or earn more than their partners, they still assume more responsibilities in domestic areas and caretaking practices (e.g. , Doucet, 2001; Hoohschild, 1989). There is evidence that this is also the common experience for couples in Austria (Höfner , 2003; Buber, 2003).

However, the number of fathers who are involved in caring practices and take up responsibility for their children is slowly on the rise (Wemeck, 2000; Noria, 2008; Seward and Richter, 2008; W all and Arnold, 2007). Fathers spend more time with their children than ever (Nomaguchi, 2009; O'Brien and Shemilt, 2003). They are interested in quality relationships with their children (Dermott, 2008) and request more time with their children (Höfner , 2003). …

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