Australia, like other developed economies, has witnessed continual increase in maternal employment over the past two decades – 40% in 1983 to 53% in 2007. This trend has placed focus on both supply of child care1 and demand for quality care. This study examined preferences for care of the child among 124 Australian women expecting their first child. Expectant first-time mothers’ perspectives provide valuable insight into broader societal views. While focused on the forthcoming birth of their child, they have not had direct experience of engaging in paid work and utilising care for the child, and so develop their views vicariously. In Australia, statutory provision for maternity and parental leave is unpaid, market-led child care often inaccessible, and there exists populist views that child care can be harmful to the child and that children are best cared for by a single carer, their mother. This study found that, while the majority of women expected to re-commence work within 12 months postpartum, at a greatly reduced rate of employment, the personal qualities of engaging in paid work and the quality of care were deemed to be the most salient at this stage of motherhood in influencing intentions.
Boyd, WA, Tayler, CP & Thorpe, KJ 2008, ''I wouldn’t leave them somewhere that made me feel insecure'': preferences of expectant first-time mothers for care of their child', paper presented to Children: a nation's capital 'Investing in our children': Early Childhood Australia Biennial Conference, Canberra, ACT, 3-6 October.