“When Couples Become Parents” shows us how gender divisions of work and responsibilities form between new parents, as well as the negative impacts following this formation. These gender divisions of work and responsibilities following the baby’s birth are heavily based on the way the household is organized before having a child. For example, if a couple ran an egalitarian household before their child was born, the partner’s roles were less split and fathers were more likely to help their partners with housework and child care once the baby was born. Other factors such as men’s excitement about the baby, women’s higher bargaining power (greater influence on partner), joint parenting, and social support positively influenced the help women received from men and made the division of housework and baby care more equal. A major factor that contributed to the split and specialization of work by gender was lack of time. To make efficient use of time, women stayed home to breast feed and take care of the house and baby, and men, who most often earned higher salaries, worked. However, it is important to note that the division of work and responsibilities by gender can exist in a positive relationship. The “division of work is problematic only if it contradicts couples’ expectations or is judged to be unfair”( p254). With this position, men and women having a difficult time with their role will find their lives difficult and stressful. The “stress could further erode empathy, negate any hope of mutual gratitude, and produce considerable anger”(p265) towards the other partner, all of which chip away at the positive aspects of a relationship. Therefore, to avoid conflict and negativity caused by division of work by gender, it is important that each partner’s responsibilities are fair, realistic, and discussed before the baby is born into the relationship. When couples were able to develop a balance of responsibilities, men were more likely to be involved in baby care with their partners, thus contributing to an improved relationship with their partner. In Fox’s study, she found that the most successful relationships involved fathers who took part in child care. These relationships grew stronger because men cared for their babies alongside their partner and spent quality time as a family. Instead of spending separate time with his partner and his baby, the family spent more time together and alleviated time constraints. In scenarios where men took the time and effort to care for their babies with enthusiasm, the men felt cared for even when away from home because they knew their partners were giving good care to something they loved so much, their baby. Also, women were happier with the time spent as a family and satisfied with their partner’s role as an involved father. However, in some families, it was not possible for men to take an involved role in caring for their babies. Some men worked long days and when coming home, were too tired for anything more than relaxing. This was especially a problem for men who were less successful financially and for couples who lacked social support. For example, when couples had social support, such as their family, their families had the ability to come over to help with cooking or cleaning which gave the family more time to spend together. Additionally, in couples that were well off, men wouldn’t have to work as many hours to provide and could even hire help such as housekeepers in order to have more time to spend with their families. When both parents shared the vision of caring for the baby together, were financially stable, and had social support, there was more time to spend as a family and the couples’ relationship grew.
Parenthood was experienced much differently in couples who had less equal gendered-work divides, and as a result,