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Coping with motherhood and work: Predicting positive wellbeing among young Australian women


Successfully managing work and family responsibilities is a major issue for most Australians (Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, HREOC, 2005; Productivity Commission, 2008) that impacts strongly on employed women (Craig, 2007a, 2007b) who still undertake the bulk of the responsibility for housework and caring for children (Baxter, 2005; Baxter, Hewitt, & Haynes, 2008).  This ‘double’ or ‘second’ shift has potential implications for the health of many Australian women. As one way to balance paid work and family, many Australian women shift to part-time hours or casual employment after having children (Abhayaratna, Andrews, Nuch, & Podbury, 2008; Whitehouse, Baird, Diamond, & Hosking, 2006). However, there is evidence to suggest that these jobs are often not very good positions (Abhayaratna et al., 2008; Connolly & Gregory, 2007, 2008; HREOC, 2008), and this may pose a concern to younger generations of women who are more invested in careers and education than were earlier generations of women.

How do younger generations of Australian women – who are encouraged to pursue education and aspire to careers – then combine work and family? If they continue in full-time employment; shift to part-time employment or move out of the workforce altogether after having children - is that what they want? Or have they compromised on something to which they feel they are entitled? And how does their combination of work and family, and the quality of these roles, impact upon their health and wellbeing? This project addresses these questions.