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«Work, Parenting and Gender: The care-work negotiations of three couple relationships in the UK Dr Gemma Anne Yarwooda and Dr Abigail Lockeb ...»

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Work, Parenting and Gender: The care-work negotiations of three couple relationships

in the UK

Dr Gemma Anne Yarwooda and Dr Abigail Lockeb


First Author, Dept of Social Care & Social Work, Manchester Metropolitan University, Birley

Campus, Manchester, g.yarwood@mmu.ac.uk.

Second Author, School of Human & Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield,

Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH. a.locke@hud.ac.uk

1 Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to the first author Abstract Changes globally mean that there are now record numbers of mothers in paid employment and a reported prevalence of involved fathering. This poses challenges to mothers and fathers as they negotiate care-work practices within their relationships. Focusing on interviews with three heterosexual couples (taken from a wider UK qualitative project on working parents), the paper considers care-work negotiations of three couples, against a backdrop of debates about intensive mothering and involved fathering. It aims to consider different configurations of work and care within three different couple relationships. We found that power within the relationships was negotiated along differential axis of gender and working status (full or part time paid work).

We present qualitatively rich insights into these negotiations. Framed by a critical discursive psychological approach, we call on other researchers to think critically about dominant discourses and practices of working, caring and parenting, pointedly how couples situated around the world operationalise these discourses in talking about themselves as worker and carers.

Keywords: Gender, parenting, work, qualitative, discursive psychology 3 Running head: WORK, PARENTING AND GENDER Introduction This paper considers the relationship between work, gender and parenting by focusing on care-work negotiations of three couples, against a backdrop of debates about intensive mothering (Hays, 1996) and involved fathering (Wall & Arnold, 2007). It aims to consider different configurations of work and care within three different couple relationships in the UK. Framed by critical discursive psychology, the authors present qualitatively rich insights into dominant discourses and practices of working, caring and parenting mobilised in the interviews. The paper asks, how do these couples operationalise these discourses in their talk about themselves as workers and carers and what can we learn about the negotiation of power in relationships along gender and working hours (working status within the family unit).

Critically reading ideologies of intensive mothering (Hays, 1996)and involved fathering (Wall & Arnold, 2007), we examine how three couples negotiate their caring responsibilities and paid work. Debates about intensive mothering and involved fathering recognise that whilst women have historically been marginalised as ‘other’, particularly in the workplace, men have been marginalised as ‘other’ in the home environment. Thus an overarching aim of this piece is to note the importance of considering these ideologies around gender, work and parenting.

Work, parenting and gender in early twenty-first century UK In the UK, there are record numbers of mothers in paid employment (Office of National Statistics [ONS], 2013). Alongside this, fathers, in the broadest sense, are reportedly taking on more caring responsibilities (Ba, 2014, Kaufman, 2013). As such, there are opportunities to examine how mothers and fathers reconcile work and family in early twenty-first century There were 7.7 million families with dependent children in the UK in 2013 (ONS, 2013). Within the UK, there is a dual expectation embedded in work-family policy that parents are both economically active in the labour market and engaged in caring for children (Fagan, 2014). This is noted through the political rhetoric of ‘hard working families’ where ‘work’ is viewed in financial, not caregiving terms, with Swan (2014) noting the rise in the number of parents struggling with the dual demands of paid work and care of their children.

The Labour Force Survey (ONS, 2013) notes an almost even split in gender across the UK workforce. Whilst the majority of men work full-time, women are more likely to become part-time workers once they have become mothers. Consequently, this trend of part-time working hours has a knock-on effect that women will also tend to earn less income through paid-work. Working practices within the UK have been termed 1.5 worker families (Prince Cooke, 2011; Sayer and Gornick, 2012) which refer to a family with one part-time worker and one full-time worker, with typically the mother taking on the part-time role. Despite gender mainstreaming commitments within EU policy directives, UK policy compares poorly by reinforcing traditional gendered caring and working constructs of mother as primary carer and father as breadwinner worker (Sigle-Rushton and Kenney, 2004). The UK did not implement a scheme for paternal leave until April 2003, when fathers were given the right to two weeks paid paternity leave. Whilst policy changes are afoot to increase sharing parenting provisions, the UK is considerably behind other EU countries with respect to father-friendly policies, such as Sweden who introduced paternity leave decades earlier.

Miller (2012) notes women’s participation in the labour market has witnessed a growth over decades to record levels. In comparison to men, women’s pay, career opportunities and standard of living drop after childbearing. Budig and England (2001) suggest a proportion of the wage gap between men and women can be described as a

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work and caregiving. As such, for mothers, working part-time equates with less earning, lower personal financial status and earning power. Williams (2010) describes this phenomenon as a ‘maternal wall’ of discrimination as employers construct working mothers as having less capacity to work and more likely to take time off work due to caregiving responsibilities. Significantly, a burgeoning body of evidence on men as fathers is beginning to inform this work-care landscape including fathers’ attempts to reconfigure traditional ways of working and caring (Dempsey and Hewitt, 2012; Doucet, 2006; Kaufman, 2013; Miller, 2010). Williams (2010) suggests that men with caregiving responsibilities have experienced discrimination from employers who refuse them the right to leave work when a child is sick.

Dempsey and Hewitt (2012) note a rise in the awareness that men have childcare and home-related responsibilities, beyond breadwinning. However drawing on international comparisons of London, New York and ‘patriarchal’ Singapore, Tan (2014:1) notes that gendered caring, working and parenting persist in many nations around the world with intensive mothering prevalent and expected as a social norm in Singapore. Furthermore, Emiko Ochiai’s 2009 research on care and welfare regimes in East and South-East Asia suggests that societies have traditional gendered binaries of care and work spanning centuries making them deeply entrenched.

Biggart and O’Brien (2010) state that the majority of modern UK fathers hold less traditional views than mothers on the gendered binaries of carer and worker. However, whilst expressing egalitarian views, in practice, Biggart and O’Brien (ibid) found that most fathers still work full-time whilst mothers provide the bulk of childcare within the family, most probably due to societal expectations of caregiving practice in combination with Governmental policies regarding maternal, paternity and parental leaves. The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey (2012) (undertaken annually) highlighted that the majority of workers felt that women should be prepared to give family responsibilities greater priority than paid work. Similarly, men were expected to be the financial providers or ‘breadwinners’.

Indeed, in contemporary society, we are seen to be parenting in an ‘intensive mothering’ ideology (Hays, 1996) in which the self-sacrificing nature of the mother becomes foregrounded. That is, the mother must manage to juggle her work-life and her mothering abilities, whilst placing the onus on her responsibilities as a mother (Sevón, 2012). According to Hays (1996: 8) although there has been a historical and cultural shift to the ideology of intensive mothering, mothering was not always regarded as “child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive, and financially expensive”. Indeed this notion of intensive mothering, whilst pervasive, marginalises significant numbers of mothers through constructed notions of care-giving versus wage-earning choice. This is problematic given the earlier point made that wage-earning is deemed an expectation on mothers in the UK and elsewhere around the world.

Interestingly, alongside these pervasive intensive mothering ideologies is the growing presence of an ideology of ‘involved fatherhood’. In other words, contemporary fathering culture suggests that fathers should be actively involved in the care of their children (Dempsey and Hewitt, 2012; Cosson and Graham, 2012). That said, there are obvious contradictions between suggested fathers’ involvement and actual parenting practices (Craig, 2006). This has lead some to suggest that we should be focusing on the strength of the fatherchild relationship rather than the time spent, i.e. ‘intimate fathering’ instead of involved fathering (Dermott, 2008). Thus whilst many scholars have acknowledged changes to gender, work and parenting, there are on-going debates as to the extent and shape of these changes (Featherstone, 2009) particularly in discussions around gender and caregiving.

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The study employed a critical discursive psychological methodology (Wetherell and Edley, 1999). Critical Discursive Psychology frames gender as socially situated in discourse, language and action (Burr, 2003). We mobilise the concept of discourse as a way of interpreting the world and giving it meaning through language which has a constructive force of social action. We take the position that discourses are both constructed and constructive.

That is that participants are both positioned and able to position themselves in their discourse.

Although there are debates about the ways to analyse qualitative interview data within a broad framework of critical discursive psychology, many researchers (including in this paper) begin by drawing upon steps from Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA) outlined by Willig (2008). As the methodology aims to focus on the constitutive nature of discourse, this involves the identification of the discursive terrain available to discuss a particular issue. In this case, the authors identified the dominant discourses and frames of reference mobilised in language about care-paid work negotiations. The purpose of this was to consider how these dominant ways of talking, doing and thinking care-work negotiations shapes possibilities and potentialities for caring and working practices and subjectivities. The authors then turned to a micro discursive psychological approach (Edwards & Potter, 1992) to consider the interactional components of discussing work, care and parenting. In other words, they considered the interview data and its interactional components. Please see Budds, Locke & Burr (2014) for further discussion on this.

The methodological framework of this paper gives substantive attention to the taken-forgranted assumptions of caring and working practices undertaken by mothers and fathers. We analyse in-depth qualitative interview data with three heteronormative couples to identify their mobilisation of discourses of caring and working including how they position themselves in the discourses. By focusing on these discourses identified in the data, we question assumptions that gender exists in individuals, considering instead how versions of caring and working are available to mothers and fathers through socially situated normative practices. Critically reading the data, we explore how the interviewees mobilise caring and working discourses to negotiate power within the couple relationship. We examine how the participants construct caring and working practices as mundane and ordinary within socially situated gender norms and social policy ‘realities’. We draw the paper together by discussing the implications of these power negotiations for their work-care practices as working mothers and fathers in early twenty-first century UK.

We consider knowledge to be situated, complex and provisional (Wetherell and Edley, 1999, Willig, 2008). To gain a greater understanding of systems of power and the partiality of knowledge, this critical psychology discursive methodology illuminates the ‘deeply problematic’ nature of gender (Lazar, 2007:141) by noting that, gender as a construct opposes men and women as discrete homogenous categories. We frame gender as intersecting with, amongst others, working status, sexuality, dis/ability and race informing ‘simultaneously subjective, structural and about social positioning and everyday practices’ (Brah and Phoenix, 2004:1).

Here we concentrate on how the men and women in the study negotiate work-care arrangements, considering gender and earning status based on part-time and full-time working. We recognise workers in different occupations earn different amounts, referred to elsewhere as earning status (see Lawthom, 1999, for a critical discussion of professional and non-professional differences). However, for the purpose of this study, our focus lies in the full- and part-time working hours rather than types of occupation because we see working hours as a parenting ‘strategy’ to manage the dual demands of paid work and care. Beatrice

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of class and gender.

We analyse in-depth qualitative interviews data, to consider the intricate and nuanced ways in which the three couples negotiate power through discourses of intersecting systems of gender and earning status (part-time and full-time working). Pointedly, our analysis focuses on three distinct couples where one parent is a full-time worker and the other is either in paid work full-time or part-time, with gender differing in these cases. By critically analysing the discourses of caring and working we highlight the intersections of difference in these familial examples of caring, parenting and paid work.

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