Over the past few decades of Australian life, government policies have gradually offered more support to working mothers, particularly through childcare subsidies and parental leave. But what motivates Australian parents in their choices around work and childcare?
Historian Carla Pascoe Leahy from the University of Melbourne has been researching Australian motherhood from 1945 to the present. Her oral histories, reported in The Conversation, reflect a wide diversity of experiences of Australian mothers, but there are consistent threads in their narratives. Most mothers want some continuity with their pre-maternal identity, to feel a sense of meaningful contribution to their society, and to enjoy their relationships with their children.
Her conclusions: if government fails to comprehend the reasons why mothers choose to engage with different supports, family policy will be of limited effectiveness. Workforce participation and economic productivity are reasonable objectives of government policy, but they are not sufficient on their own.