Care involvement and power relations. Parenting and gender in contemporary Poland
Keywords:parental leave, gender roles, power relations, Poland, care work
Objective: The study examines the opportunity structures of fathers and mothers in Polish society in the context of their right to use parental leave.
Background: The use of parental leave by fathers remains at a low level in Poland. The reasons for this lie in the way the family policy system is designed and also in cultural norms regarding care and gender. Consequently, Polish fathers and mothers have different possibilities for actually taking parental leave.
Method: The analysis is based on qualitative data gathered during in-depth interviews with Polish mothers and fathers. In total, 53 interviews were conducted with parents of children aged 1-8 from different socio-economic situations and with different attitudes to parenthood and gender roles.
Results: The analysis shows that the opportunity structures of fathers and mothers differ distinctly. Fathers and mothers use different types of power in their relationship. Fathers usually use debilitative power that allows them to withdraw from unwanted obligations to care, and also not to take parental leave. In contrast, mothers use situational power, which helps them sustain control over family life. Both of these strategies for using power limit the other person’s right to use or not to use parental leave.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that there is a need to change the system of parental leave in Poland if gender equality is to be achieved.
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