Intentions in tension: personal and structural factors affecting expectant first-time mother’s decisions about return to work
Boyd, WA, Thorpe, KJ & Tayler, CP 2008, 'Intentions in tension: personal and structural factors affecting expectant first-time mother’s decisions about return to work', paper presented to 20th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD), Wurzburg, Germany, 13-17 July.
First-time expectant mothers' views about paid work and care of the child represent those of a group that, while invested in motherhood, does not have the direct experience of being a mother. They provide an important insight into both society’s idealised views about motherhood and the tensions that are presented when having to make a personal decision. These decisions reflect public beliefs about the role of women in providing for the economic and care needs of their family, and tensions that emerge when having to make a personal decision.
This study was of 124 Australian first time mothers who completed questionnaires in their third trimester of pregnancy. The analyses examined factors predicting intention to return to work, number of hours they intended to work and actual return to work at 6 months postpartum. The factors of interest were both structural (availability and extent of paid and unpaid maternity leave) and personal ( career satisfaction, investment in motherhood, conflict between career and motherhood beliefs ). Results indicate a group preference for return to work within the first year after the birth of a child but with reduction in hours to part-time. Most women saw paid work not only as a source of income but also as source of personal satisfaction They anticipated motherhood to be difficult but satisfying. Tensions emerged in the balance of public and private beliefs across the sample.