2. Evidence from Austria and the Austrian Context—Identifying the Problem
3. Parents at Their Workplace—General Evidence and Research Gap
4. Data and Methods
- A qualitative, longitudinal interview study that included the perspectives of both men and women in heterosexual parental couples during their gendered transition to parenthood. The study was undertaken in Vienna, Austria between 2013 and 2015. Through various channels (prenatal classes, information and advice centers for parents, gynecologists), we recruited 22 mothers and fathers from 11 couples living in the Vienna area and conducted semi-structured, problem-centered interviews at three time-points. We interviewed the parents separately; during the last trimester of pregnancy, and six months and 24 months after their first child was born (66 interviews in total). Problem-centered interviews (Witzel 2000) enabled the respondents to narrate what they determined to be relevant and permitted the interviewers to ask questions afterward, following the research question. All interviews were transcribed verbatim. Based on initial thematic coding, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the couples’ plans in comparison with their work-care arrangements after their transition to parenthood at a couple level and subsequently performed a cross-case comparison. The analysis consisted of several analytical steps at the individual and couple level as well as on a time dimension (Vogl et al. 2018) and was oriented towards social constructivism (Vogl et al. 2019). The interviewees, between 25 and 42 years old, were mainly highly educated middle-class parents (with upper secondary education to tertiary education, second stage).
- In a qualitative interview study, separate interviews with 44 mothers and fathers from 22 parental couples and interviews with two single mothers were conducted within the first two years of their youngest (not necessarily first) child. Interviewees were recruited from throughout Austria and were interviewed using problem-centered interview techniques (see study 1), both personally and via telephone. Analyses comprised a thematic coding phase and a subsequent in-depth and cross-case analysis. The interviewees were characterized by a great variation in several characteristics: length of leave (from 0 to 33 months), shared leave (from not shared/only the mother to equally shared to not shared/only the father), division of paid work after parental leave (from male breadwinner to double part-time to female breadwinner), number of children (from one to five), family status (single parent, cohabitating, stepfamily, married), educational level (from compulsory to doctorate), and income level (from 0 to 7500 euros/month).
- Empirical findings on fathers’ family life and work experiences during and after their parental leave derived from data drawn from two research projects. In sum, the first, conducted in 2013, and the second, conducted between 2014 and 2015, consisted of 36 interviews. They focused on the everyday life experiences of men on paternal leave and qualitative analyses of the distribution of paid work, domestic work, and childcare. The interview partners were contacted via parental networks, nursery schools, contacts provided by networks promoting caring men, and via offices providing support for fathers who aim to reconcile work and family. The data were analyzed using qualitative-interpretative methods. Most interview partners earned a good or above-average income, and most had higher education. This might be explained by the contact offices or by the social contacts provided by interviewees. Most participants thus had claimed for the income-related childcare allowance. Moreover, to a certain extent, people with higher education were more likely to participate in research studies.
- Finally, empirical results of two follow-up studies on female partner’s perspectives comprised interviews with 12 mothers in total, who were, for the most part, the female partners of men on parental leave interviewed before (2015). The data again were analyzed by applying qualitative-interpretative methods.
5. Integrating or Opposing Constructions of Gendered Parental Responsibilities at the Workplace
5.1. Parents Who Could Not Resist and Modified Their Plans
Childcare was an issue in every application round. […] Well, [changes her voice indicating that she is quoting someone else] ‘So, how will you cope?’(Linda, 35, unemployed, one daughter, 19 months parental leave)
I: And these four months’ parental leave? Of your husband?
A: No, he didn‘t take them in the end. He got a special contract instead, so to speak, with a slightly higher, how shall I say, I don‘t know, some position higher than before, a job in public service, due to this special contract. He was given some sort of qualification bonus, in exchange for not going on parental leave.(Anna, 28, an employee at public administration, one son, 20 months of parental leave)
He [the employer] doesn’t have to be concerned or fear anything because I simply will not go on parental leave anyhow. That’s why I am not affected by his negative attitude; it’s better. Although it is only a short paternal leave, he is very critical, literally, he said, the system would collapse.(Robert, 32, an economist at the construction company, one daughter, no parental leave)
Shared leave was impossible because I simply can‘t be absent from work for so long, I don’t have a replacement, and everything would be left undone. And a minimum for paternity leave would be three months I guess? And one man’s ‘daddy month’ already caused bickering and was sketchy, that‘s why I excluded parental leave.(Alfred, 39, full-time production worker, one daughter, no parental leave)
Inside these company structures, it really was a problem, well, there were co-workers, who also wanted to do parental part-time work […] when a superior signaled—I think I was affected, too: ‘If all the men go on leave now, why did we employ men in the first place?’ […]. This statement exposes the whole mentality, the structures. Because they deliberately employed fewer women exactly because women go on parental leave, and if the men are starting now, too, the whole structure will tumble.(Marc, 37, an employee in the chemical industry, two daughters, two parental leaves, 12 and 6 months)
The working world is really hypocritical in this respect […] truly a Potemkin village without any substance, it’s really frightening how dreadful this still is. Originally, the first reaction in my case was like, ‘do it, it’s all right’, but when I really did go on leave, I heard comments like, ‘if you had done this [in another company], they would have sacked you immediately.’(Rick, 37, an employee with a media department, one son, one daughter, one-year parental leave)
5.2. Parents Who Managed to Oppose and Accept Obstacles
Actually, I talked to my boss about the fact that I wanted to take parental part-time then, and how many hours and, mmm, he was a little surprised that I wanted to work for so many hours. Although I think I’d told him five times before, but he has somehow … I don’t know, he ignored it or forgot about it. Some men, well, I have a male boss, well, he just thought, I don’t know; she’ll be working for 15 or 20 h maybe. Although I’d told him before that my plan was to work quite a lot.(Emma, 31, full-time employee at a private company, one son, 12 months’ parental leave)
Luckily, in my case, I simply decided that I would go on parental leave and I didn‘t arrange this with my employer, didn‘t have to, as I quit my job. I just proceeded to childcare at home and didn‘t have to be afraid two years later whether this employer would take me back or whether my family would go downhill, just because I don‘t have a job anymore. For my employer this was completely new, a completely new arena, everybody was shocked, ‘Hey, what’s come over you, you‘re a man!’(Frank, 46, full-time logistics worker, three sons, 2 years’ parental leave)
Afterward, I took up a new job, and my employer asked me, as I‘d included parental leave in my CV, she looked at me, sized me up and asked if family planning is completed now because this is a permanent position.(Frank, see above)
‘I knew that this [parental leave] would occur one of these days, but I didn’t expect that it would be you.’(Henrik, 33, controller in an NGO, two sons, 10 months’ parental leave)
Oh yes, my first reaction, as I said, I’m in a steel construction firm, and, well, somehow the men there are also sort of made of steel. And one […] uttered: Well, then I have got credit, I have also got two sons. I answered: All right, then go, you can take grandpa part-time when the next offspring shows up. You see, you have to respond to people with humor.(Fred, 31, programmer, one daughter, one son, two leaves for six months)
Well, I have young fathers in the company, too, who live according to the classical distribution of roles. […] I somehow realized, well, I’m enjoying the time I spend with my daughter. And I actually know that you have to struggle for this right continuously.(Fred, see above)
Well, for example, the classic, the overtime hour. Carrot and whip, one and the same actually. You have to work more and more to be somebody. And you need to be somebody, of course. Cause it’s the only thing that defines a man. And my father did well, career-wise. You can look at it this way. But at the same time, I know, I can’t do both, there are only 24 h in a day, you know. And that’s the point—where you have to make a conscious decision.(Fred, see above)
6. Discussion and Conclusions
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|Respondents||Age Span||Education||N° of Children||Duration of Parental Leave in Months|
|study (1) 2013–2015||mothers||11||25–35||compulsory-tertiary||1||0–24|
|study (2) 2018||mothers||24||24–44||compulsory-tertiary||1–5||2–33|
|study (3) 2013–2014||fathers||36||30–47||secondary-tertiary||1–3||2–45 *|
|study (4) 2015||mothers||12||32–58||secondary-tertiary||1–3||0–36 **|
|TOTAL||n = 114|
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