Being Dad or Mum? about Traditional Parental Roles from the Perspective of Polish and Swedish Fathers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:10 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Katarzyna SUWADA , Polish Academy of Sciences, Graduate School for Social Research, Warsaw, Poland
Parenthood must be concerned as one of areas within which reproduction of gendered practices occurs. In my paper I will try to show how Polish and Swedish fathers understand traditional parental roles, how they perceive biological and cultural differences between motherhood and fatherhood and what they think about gender equality within the household. My paper is based on 52 in-depth interviews conducted with Polish and Swedish fathers in 2012 and at the beginning of 2013. It is a part of broader research project on fatherhood in Poland and Sweden. Interviews concerned men’s experience of parenting and are analysed in the institutional and social contexts of both societies. In my opinion these contexts are extremely important here. Stereotypical roles of fathers and mothers are strongly connected to cultural patterns of masculinity and femininity. Beside that Polish and Swedish societies provide, through family policies, completely different conditions for having children and differently approach the problem of work-home balance. Unsurprisingly, these have an impact on how men define father’s and mother’s roles. Among Polish fathers there is a tendency to look at it with more conservative and traditional approach. They are convinced that it is impossible to cross biological differences between motherhood and fatherhood and therefore father is rather regarded as mother’s helper or additional carer. Whereas Swedish fathers are more eager to question imposed by society patterns of behaviour.  Sometimes they really struggle with stereotypical gender roles to be more involved in family sphere and try to redefine traditional fatherhood. Obviously these attitudes have an impact on everyday fathering and the way family life is organised. Fathers’ perspective is important here, since without their bigger involvement in family life, gender equality cannot be achieved in other areas of social life.