Kids & career: what’s the tipping point?

At what point do your choices around having kids begin to impact on your desire or ability to work? For many women, the answer is 3. No matter how old you are or what ages your kids may be, women with 3 kids are less likely to work than women with 2.

According to News Ltd reports:


Research paper Fertility and Labour Market Participation used ABS Census data, and shows 55 per cent of mothers of three are in paid employment compared to 68 per cent of mothers of two.

The biggest difference is among women under 30. Just 21 per cent of mothers with three are working, nearly half the 41 per cent of their two-kid counterparts, the Australian reported.


This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Here are some of the reasons 3 is the tipping point for many women:
-the cost of childcare when 3 kids are small is massive. Not to mention the difficulty in even finding suitable childcare at all.
-a lack of confidence and skill gap in women who have been out of the workforce for a long time due to having 3 kids.
-the logistical complications of managing the busy lives of 3 kids outside work hours.

Ms Zhu, a research associate at the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre, says a gap is expected when children are younger because of the costs of childcare.National policy encourages women to build a big family with initiatives like the baby bonus, says Ms Zhu, but they should receive the same support to manage a work-life balance.

There are so many factors to take into account when deciding how many children to have – and of course it’s not always a deliberate decision – accidents happen. One Mamamia reader, Ashley* emailed us this week with the following Group Therapy question which neatly covers some of the issues prospective parents face when deciding the number of kids they want:


I have one child, she is nearly 17 months and we have always planned to have another, now seems like the right time to start trying in the interests of “getting it over and done with” and also in light of my age and our circumstances. So, last month we start and all of a sudden I’m in a blind panic about it.
Maybe I just want to stop at one? It just sounds so tidy, I could start working on my career again which has come to a grinding halt, we could buy a smaller house, we could be nap free and sleeping through very very soon. And, most importantly, I don’t have to risk becoming anxious and depressed all over again. No more long bouts of crying (both of us!) or repeated failures at “teaching to sleep”. It just smells like freedom to me!
My husband is a bit shocked by my “turn around” but to me it has been a long time coming. I think he could be happy with our daughter alone, he adores her but he would also love another little one. As for my daughter, well, I would like for her to have a brother or sister. Chances are she would have more fun growing up with a sibling and it would be kind to her to share our hopes/expectations. Plus, it would be good for her to have a sibling to moan to about the ‘rents as she gets older.
It feels like a big decision and I’m just not sure…I think if I got pregnant then I would just get on with it and doubt I would have major regrets but maybe the reverse would be true too and we could be a happy family of 3?

If you have kids, what are the factors that helped you decide how many to have? Did career come into it? At what point does it become ‘too hard’ to try to juggle both?


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