Published Papers - Abstract 997

Coombe J, Loxton D, Tooth L & Byles J. “I can be a mum or a professional, but not both”: what women say about their experiences of juggling paid employment with motherhood. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 2019; : 2020-9-1 0

Past research has identified the salience of the notion of ‘good motherhood’ in countries such as Australia, where women are expected to invest significant time and energy, often through self-sacrifice, to raise their children. We analysed free-text comments provided in response to an open-ended question from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) to examine whether the discourse of ‘good motherhood’ played any role in how women articulate their experiences of juggling paid employment with motherhood. Participants from the cohort born 1973-78 who had children were included. ‘Good motherhood’ underpinned many of the accounts about combining motherhood with paid employment. Women reported life as stressful and hectic as they attempted to juggle the demands of childcare with paid employment and domestic chores. Although some identified ‘good motherhood’ as an unachievable ideal, most were largely unable to disengage with this discourse. Broader social structures, such as inflexible working conditions, were found to reinforce and support this ideal, contributing to the strength of the discourse. Traditional gender norms continue to underscore the division of labour in Australian households where women provide the majority of childcare and undertake the majority of domestic chores, regardless of whether they also engage in paid employment or not.