For heterosexual couples who enter into parenthood, having a first child often has a significant impact on the ways in which their lives are organised. Importantly, women typically take on the greatest share of household and care work, reflecting broader cultural norms in relation to gender. Drawing on case studies of four Australian heterosexual couples, this article examines the ways in which the couples discussed the distribution of household and care work. By tracking the same couples from prior to pregnancy to after the birth of their child, we are able to focus on expectations and ideals in relation to unpaid and paid work, and how these relate to what happens in practice. The cases suggest four key issues, namely (1) the positioning of household and care work as not being work, (2) the positioning of women as ‘lucky’ if their male partner is ‘helpful’, (3) the primary orientation of men towards earning a paid income as a way of providing for their family, and (4) the unequal distribution of caring responsibility. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these issues with regard to how the division of labour is understood in the context of heterosexual first-time parents.