Fatherhood and Masculinity: The Case of Lithuanian Men on Paternity Leave

 

Artūras Tereškinas

 

Summary

The article examines how Lithuanian fathers construct their masculinity when they take on the role of primary caregiver for their children. Focusing on 15 fathers on paternity leave it attempts to answer the following questions: What changes do men and their masculinity experience when they temporarily leave the work and enter the home to assume child-caring responsibilities? How does the concept of care conform to masculine ideals? How do men include childcare in their construction of masculinity?

Analysing the experience of fathers on paternity leave, it is possible to see that they describe a "hybrid" model of fatherhood that combines the idea of a man as a breadwinner and the notion of a father actively participating in family life and childcare. Although in all interviews the breadwinning role is strongly emphasized and integrated into the perception of a good father, new features of a nurturing father allow the respondents to understand themselves as non-traditional or non-stereotypical men. The nurturing father and man are not an opposite of hegemonic conservative masculinity; it is rather a hybrid form of masculinity comprised of both a working and earning and a nurturing man.

The interview with the fathers also revealed tensions and difficulties related to paternity leave and to the model of a nurturing father chosen by the respondents. First, the respondents described childcare during their paternity leave as a hard work that some of them would not want to repeat. Second, without feeling any threat to their masculinity, the respondents very frequently defined childcare as a female activity. In talking of fatherhood, they usually emphasized an „inborn" connection of a child to a mother. It appears that on the discursive level, the traditional attitude towards childcare predominates.