First-Time Parents' Perceptions of Work-Family Balance in Spain: Which Are the More Satisfied Couples?
The empirical approach is based on the discourse analysis of 31 dual-earner couples who had an egalitarian division of domestic work during pregnancy. They were interviewed at two points in time: when they were expecting the first child (2011) and one and a half year later (2013), when most of them have already returned to paid work. For the first wave we conducted three interviews (one for each member of the couple and a joint interview) with a total length of two hours and a half. In the case of the second wave, both members of the couple were interviewed separately during one hour each. These couples had to make decisions about care and work in a rather unfavourable context characterized by a severe economic crisis and the weakening of men’s working conditions.
The results indicate that mothers become the primary caregivers in almost half of the couples. However, there is a significant degree of dissonance within and among couples concerning satisfaction with work-family balance. Many mothers were unsatisfied when the child was one year and a half, whereas most fathers were fairly satisfied and only very few expressed some discomfort with their role balance. Nonetheless, assuming more care tasks does not necessarily produce dissatisfaction in the case of mothers, provided they perceive a high degree of commitment to childrearing and deep emotional ties with their children on the part of fathers. Men more often express a greater gap between ideals and reality, without really feeling much remorse as they feel justified by their job constrictions and the economic crisis. Our findings also highlight the importance of a good policy design in order to favour gender balance over the life course and children well-being.