Fatherhood Models in the Middle Class of Contemporary Russia
Drawing on in-depth interviews with married Russian fathers, this paper focuses on the gender contracts and father-hood models of the middle class of contemporary Russia. It shows that while the ideal of fathers heavily involved in day-to-day parenting is widespread, the reality is somewhat different despite the active participation of Russian mothers in the labor market. Still, for most Russian men, fathering as a set of everyday practices of engaging with their children has more value than for the generation of their fathers. The research shows that modern Russian society can be characterized by the co-existence of egalitarian and traditional tendencies in gender relations. On the one hand, the practices of involved fathering are evolving, and on the other hand, the traditional patterns of masculinity are enforced, excluding fathers from the sphere of parenthood. Economic factors and rigid notions about the family gender contract are the main obstacles which prevent Russian men from “doing” involved fatherhood. The liberal phenomenon of “new fatherhood” which appeared in Western countries turned out to be much more conservative in Russia. The modern family is still the “space of struggle,” and this struggle is counter-directed: it can be a fight for survival, or for power, or for an egalitarian gender order, against the discrimination of men as secondary parents, against old-fashioned traditional views on the father’s and the mother’s roles in the family, or for the preservation of those views.