In this study we investigate the gender division of labour in the physical and financial care of children in South Africa, in the context of large race differences in rates of union formation and parent–child co-residence. Using national micro-data, we show that across a variety of household forms, women are the primary caregivers of children even when they are not a child’s biological mother. Women are also more likely to provide physical care than men are to provide financial support for children’s schooling. However, this gender imbalance is far larger in the case of African children, the majority of whom do not live with their father. For most African children, both their physical and financial care is provided by women who are typically the child’s biological mother, but also the child’s grandmother or another female relative.