What kind of arrangements does care-sharing entail for fathers, and what prompts fathers and their families to take on their unusual approaches to early years care? To what extent does the adoption of such arrangements represent a transformation of roles and orientations and how do fathers and their partners transition into them? In this chapter, we begin our examination of the experiences of the fathers within the Sharing Care study by outlining the range of different care and work arrangements they had taken on, before going on to explore the circumstances and motivations that had precipitated these and the nature of the process through which they became a reality.
The study's inclusive approach to the notion of fatherly care-sharing enabled insight into a striking range of approaches fathers were taking to the adoption of either primary or equal care roles within the early years of their children's lives. In the pages that follow we show how, while a minority of those in the study had taken parental leave, most were currently in the midst of longer-term post-maternity-leave arrangements in co-ordination with different sorts of permanent or semi-permanent adjustments to work. We outline a range of approaches with respect to the division of caring and breadwinning between partners and to the balance of parental versus non-parental care. Notwithstanding the qualitative, non-representative nature of the study, such a diversity of approaches, we suggest, highlights a need to broaden our understandings of what some term ‘involved’ fathering in order to better understand the range of temporary and more permanent care-sharing arrangements it might involve. In particular, it flags a need to examine the practicalities of mediumterm arrangements that involve both partners juggling family care, work and external care. It is important, we suggest, for the approach of practitioners and policymakers (see Chapter 3), as well as academics such as ourselves, not to render such post-leave care-sharing possibilities invisible or unsupported.