The study compared mothers’ intentions and preferences for parental leave with the leave they actually took after the birth of their children.
“On average, working mothers would prefer to take 69 weeks of leave, much longer than the 26 weeks of paid parental leave currently available. They expect to be able to take only 36 weeks, with much of the difference because of financial constraints” says Isabelle Sin, one of the study authors.
Although many mothers returned to work earlier than they’d planned, some ended up not working for several years, much longer than they expected. The study found 20% of mothers who remained out of work for several years cited lack of access to affordable childcare or to flexible working conditions as a major factor preventing their return.
Mothers who returned to work early mainly did so because of financial constraints.
Early return to work was associated with higher stress levels, especially among self-employed mothers and mothers who worked full time.
“Our study reinforces the value of flexible working conditions that enable parents to work if they want to. These might include work-from-home options, part time work, employer provided childcare or various other supports,” says Isabelle Sin.
“Many mothers who don’t work for several years after having children didn’t intend this. Policy makers need to design policy with an awareness of the limited opportunities women have to work while raising children.”