Current research on fatherhood often focuses on minimal changes men have made in their participation in family life. Anna Dienhart argues that men have indeed made significant changes to their family roles, but those changes are often masked in existing discourses on fatherhood. In Reshaping Fatherhood, Dienhart's qualitative study of 18 shared parenting couples explores both men's and women's resourcefulness and shows how these couples have deliberately co-created alternatives to traditional parenting roles. Using these narrative accounts, Dienhart offers several options for creating a family structure that allows both mothers and fathers to participate actively in parenting.
Dienhart emphasizes that “tag-team parenting,” a common technique that couples use to juggle the responsibilities of a hectic family life, relies on both the interchangeability of parental tasks as well as the specialization by preference. Dienhart compares shared parenting to a dance that demands continuous revision of the perceptions and activities of fatherhood and motherhood. She challenges family researchers to move beyond deficit and comparative model perspectives about the complexities of gendered family life as she offers alternative ideas about division-of-labor patterns, men's relational capabilities in child care, the preeminence of men's provider role, and traditional notions about gender and politics in families.
This timely book is ideal for professionals and students in family studies, sociology of the family, family psychology, and gender studies.
Part III: Reflexive Commentary
Rather than take a strictly critical perspective, I purposely listened to people's narratives with interest in and sensitivity to ideas of resourcefulness. The types of narratives elicited were closely associated with this stance. These men's and women's accounts tend to stress resourcefulness and perceptions of positive experiences. Further, people likely chose to participate in this research because the contract explicitly pointed to an interest in their perceived success as men and women jointly sharing parenting responsibilities and activities.
The meaning-making presented in the previous chapters is cast in a similar vein; I maintained a stance of appreciating resourcefulness. The task in the next two chapters is to move toward interpretative implications and propositions about possible alternative discourses—or ideas that may otherwise be subjugated ...