Fathers, Work and Family in Sweden and the US

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:50 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Anna-Lena ALMQVIST , School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna, Sweden
Gayle KAUFMAN , Sociology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC
This paper investigated Swedish and US fathers’ experiences of work-family conflict, possible solutions, and actual changes to their work situation in relation to becoming a parent. The Swedish data were drawn from interviews completed in 2008 with 16 fathers with a child born in 2005 or 2006. The US data came from interviews conducted between 2005 and 2007 with 26 fathers with at least one child age five or younger. The semi-structured interviews were analyzed according to grounded theory. In terms of conflicts, half of the Swedish fathers mention time pressures or stress, with some referring to work-life balance as a puzzle. Findings indicate that the US fathers think that they work too much overtime as well as shift hours, and they also mention arguments with their partner about responsibility at home. At the same time, a majority of both US and Swedish fathers emphasize family as a priority over work. In terms of possible solutions, a common theme among Swedish fathers is to mention that ideal work hours would be less than their current hours, with some wishing for a shorter work week (e.g., 4 days) and others a shorter work day (e.g., 6 hours). US fathers most commonly wish for a more flexible work-life situation. In terms of actual changes, several fathers adjust their work lives in response to their family life. Among Swedish fathers, the most common changes involve working fewer hours, adjusting their start and end times, and taking advantage of flexible hours. Swedish fathers also emphasize trading off with their partners, including ‘shift parenting.’ As for US fathers, some have changed their job to be more at home, some changed from working three shifts and some fathers solved the situation by intense work during a limited time.