Motherhood, employment and the "child penalty"

Baker, M. (2010). "Motherhood, employment and the "child penalty"." Womens Studies International Forum 33(3): 215-224.

Current discourse tends to emphasise choices rather than constraints but researchers identify numerous social constraints to reproduction as well as earning while caring. Policies and public discourse support parenting and expect most parents to earn a living but parenthood is more consequential for the employment outcomes of mothers than fathers. This New Zealand research examines gendered strategies to accommodate parenthood and employment, comparing participants in different circumstances. It is based on qualitative interviews from three studies: the first with couples trying to reproduce, the second with career academics discussing work-family integration, and the third with sole mothers expected to move from "welfare to work". These studies reinforce previous findings that work/family integration is more complex for mothers than fathers or childless women. However, they also show that employment "choices" vary among women and are shaped by domestic arrangements, perceptions of support, occupational requirements and ideas about "good mothering".

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