Only one in 10 mothers returns to work full time

A
new report shows that contrary to popular belief, fewer mums stay in full time
employment after the birth of their first baby than was suggested by previous
research.

In
fact only 10 per cent of first time mothers maintain continuous full time
employment during the eleven years following the birth of their baby according
to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The
research carried out by the School of Social Sciences and Law at Oxford Brookes
University has cast new light on previously held notions about working mothers.

Data
on mothers’ working hours, employment status and continuity collected at three
points in time were used to create a work history typology.

"The
mothers fell into four categories," explains Professor Susan McRae, author
of the report. "Those who worked continuously full time, continuously part
time, or mixed full and part time work, and women who had not been employed
since the birth of their first child."

Four
main stereotypes of modern motherhood can be drawn from these differing work
histories.

The
first is the "I want a career and children" type. These mothers
typically return to work within 12 months of their first child and stay in
full-time jobs thereafter. "What was interesting about these mainly professional
women was that many had experienced marital disruption and of those with
partners at the birth of their first child only 73 per cent remained with the
same man," says McRae.

The
second stereotype is the "I want children and a job" mothers who also
returned to work within a year of their first child and stayed employed
subsequently, but worked part time in order to balance work and family.

"Of
these 90 per cent were married and their marriages were more stable and 92 per
cent of those with husbands or partners were still living with the father of
that child," she adds.

The
third group includes the "my family comes first" type mother who have
work histories that mix part-time and full-time and spending time at home.

These
mums were less likely to return to work within a year of having their first
baby and their spells in the labour market were more intermittent. "These
mums included some of the youngest in the study who did not have quite such
stable partnerships. They also achieved much less in the labour market than
other mums," says McRae.

Finally
there is the "my family is my job"’ type mum who gave up paid
employment when she became a mother.

"Surprisingly
given their subsequent economic inactivity, one in five of these mums had
expected to return to work soon after the birth of their first baby. The fact
that they did not subsequently do so was often related to difficulties finding
work or affordable childcare. These women had the largest families and 84 per
cent remained with the husbands or partners of their first child," says
McRae.

The
report highlights the fact that although there has been a near doubling in the
numbers of mothers with children under the age of five in paid work, mothers
are still reluctant or unable to mix full-time jobs with motherhood. Indeed the
results of the study show that the extent and continuity of women’s full time
employment after they become mothers has been overstated by previous research.

"Longitudinal
data now indicates that more than ten years after the birth of a first baby,
fewer mothers are actually in full time employment than there had been within
the first 12 months of that birth," says McRae.

"The
results of this study strongly suggest that a complete explanation of the
women’s labour market choices after childbirth depend as much on understanding
the constraints which affect women as it does on understanding their
preferences," says McRae.

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