Table 2

Young children’s social context

A. Gendered divisions in parental caregivingMothers as primary caregiversFacilitator: Why do mothers take care of children aged 0–2 most often?
Participant: Because it’s mothers who breastfeed. It’s mothers who have the most important thing for the child: milk. (Grandmother, age unknown, FGD3A)
The reason women are more often the primary caregivers is because women don’t go out. Men travel a lot. It’s you, the mother, who takes care of the child until his father returns…it’s like the child belongs more to us than to his father. It’s because we are always there. (Mother, 25 years, 3 children, P1:FGD5A)
Fathers provide for material needs…If the child is sick then [the father] pays to send us to the health center. But I don’t really see what the role of the Papa is. Aside from the fact that, for example, the father sits down, he and the child talk [when the father] isn’t too busy, then you can give the child to him just during the time you need to do something. Then [you have to] come back and take the child. I don’t really see what the role of the Papa is. (Mother, 38 years, 5 children, P3:FGD1A)
The father does a lot! Regarding the child’s health for example, if [the father] finds the child is sickly, the father takes care of the child. It could turn out the mother doesn’t have enough milk…[so] the father runs to the paediatricians to find what can help the mother to have milk for the baby or even to the hospital for formula. (Father, 52 years, 10 children, P3:FGD2A)
B. Caregiver roles change with children’s ageFathers’ roleP3: …if the child is sick while you’re out, the father can take the child by himself to the health centre because the child doesn’t need to be carried on the father’s back [because] he is a bit bigger. Or even when the father wants to go out, he can take the child on his walks
P4: That allows the mother to finish her tasks.
P2: But when the child is…small it’s not possible [for the father to take him out]. It’s only when the child passes two years that it’s possible…it is easier to help each other out when the baby isn’t small. When he is small there isn’t anyone but the mothers to [take care of him]. (Mothers, P3: 38 years, 5 children; P4: 37 years, 5 children; P2: 44 years, 3 children, FGD1A)
Grandmothers’ role…if it’s a first-time mother, she can’t take care of a newborn very well. It’s the grandmother who takes care of the baby, bathes him and shows the mother how to breastfeed him, how to recognize when he is sick…it’s around the fourth month that the mother can take care of the baby well. (Grandmother, 60 years, 3 children, P2:FGD3A)
Roles of siblings, co-wivesP1: [Caregivers] change. For example, if the child has older siblings, big brothers or big sisters, they can watch him while you go somewhere…
P4: When you have a co-wife, you can trust her with the child while you go somewhere, until you come back.
P3: If there is an older child who you trust, you can leave him the [younger] child to take care of while you do something… (Mothers, P1: 37 years, 5 children; P4: 37 years, 5 children; P3: 38 years, 5 children; FGD1A)
  • FGD, focus group discussion.