On shifting ground: First-time parents’ ideal world of paid work and family time

K. E. Kushner, N. Sopcak, R. Breitkreuz, N. Pitre, D. L. Williamson, G. Rempel, M. Stewart, N. Letourneau

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    We examined first-time fathers’ and mothers’ perspectives about their ideal world of support in the context of dominant social ideology, ethno-cultural ideals, and the pragmatics of their everyday family, workplace, and socioeconomic circumstances during their first 18 months as parents. Twelve Canadian-born and six Chinese immigrant couples participated in individual in-depth interviews. We conducted a three-part analysis: fathers’ perspectives, mothers’ perspectives, and couples’ perspectives. Fathers focused on fulfilling dual fathering ideals of ‘time with family’ and ‘providing for family’; mothers emphasized fulfilling a mothering ideal of ‘caring for children'. Examining couples’ perspectives revealed a more nuanced understanding of their shared focus on ‘caring for family'. Parents in this study found the current social ideal of the ‘new’ father, who is both financial provider and nurturing co-parent, appealing, yet difficult to achieve. Couples wanted informal (i.e. family and social network) support, along with formal (i.e. workplace and childcare) support to enable them to provide family care and financial stability for their family. Findings contribute to understanding family and paid work experiences and decision-making among couples as new parents. We offer insights into the complexity of intersections among social ideals, personal expectations, family care, and paid work for fathers and mothers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-141
    Number of pages23
    JournalCommunity, Work and Family
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar. 2017


    • Fatherhood
    • first-time parents
    • gender
    • motherhood
    • qualitative research
    • work-family


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