Working, Caring and Sharing: Work-Life Dilemmas in Early Motherhood

  • Diane M. Houston
  • Gillian Marks
Part of the The Future of Work Series book series (TFW)


During the last two decades of the 20th century the work participation of women with preschool children almost doubled from 28 per cent in 1980 to 53 per cent in 1999 (McRae, 2003). This increase now appears to have stabilised, with Labour Force Survey (LFS) figures for 2004 showing that 53 per cent of women with preschool children are in employment (Clegg, 2004). McRae (2003) and Houston and Marks (2002; 2003) demonstrate that this increase in part represents a greater likelihood of returning to work after the first child and that longitudinal analysis of individual women’s employment shows a marked decrease in work, particularly full-time work, during the first child’s early childhood, especially when women have second and subsequent children. McRae’s (2003) longitudinal analysis demonstrated that only 10 per cent of first-time mothers had maintained full-time employment by the time their first child was 11 years old. McRae argues that this suggests that ‘a complete explanation of women’s labour market choices after childbirth, and the outcomes of these choices, depends as much on understanding the constraints that differentially affect women as it does on understanding their preferences.’ (2003: 334–5).


Labour Force Survey Role Identity Present Chapter Main Earner Lifestyle Decision 
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Copyright information

© Diane M. Houston and Gillian Marks 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane M. Houston
  • Gillian Marks

There are no affiliations available

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