Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Thinking about the Baby: Gender and Transitions into Parenthood

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Thinking about the Baby: Gender and Transitions into Parenthood

Article excerpt

Thinking About the Baby: Gender and Transitions into Parenthood. Susan Walzer. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1998. 224 pp. ISBN 1-56639-630-1. $49.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.

Research on the transition to parenthood highlights the traditionalization of roles and responsibilities after the birth of the child. Fathers tend to take on the breadwinning responsibilities, while mothers take on more of the household responsibilities. This traditionalization of roles comes despite the couples intentions to divide roles along egalitarian lines. Susan Walzer tries to understand why couples, despite their intentions otherwise, develop traditional roles after the transition to parenthood. A primary goal of her book is "to bring the social contexts within which new parents make the transition into parenthood more clearly into view, and to look at parenthood as it intersects with gender" (p. 6). To achieve this goal she interviewed 25 couples using a semi-structured interview format about their transition into parenthood.

This book makes an important contribution to the literature because it begins to address how the traditionalization of roles after the birth of the first child is constructed. The book is particularly effective in addressing how women take on the "emotional work" of mothering and how this mental labor reinforces their taking primary responsibility for childcare. Another important chapter analyzes the images of "good" mothering and fathering and how these images reinforce the traditionalization of roles. Particularly insightful is how the cultural imagery of "good" mothering and fathering intersects with the parents creation of identity as a mother or father. Walzer does a good job of analyzing the role of providing for fathers and how the cultural and personal beliefs of mothers and fathers concerning the provider role reinforce the traditionalization of roles. …

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