Do Working Moms Have More Babies?


Europe is having a baby crisis. The New York Times reported in a recent magazine cover story that fertility levels in Europe are at an all time low. This baby shortage has been called the “lowest-low fertility.” Given that the planet seems to be exploding, resources are tapped, and we’re all going to have to take out second mortgages just to fill our gas tanks, it may at first seem smart for Europeans not to be procreating in their previous numbers. But the decline of babies in

Europe , as reported in the Times, has disastrous implications – socially, financially and politically.


But come stateside and pregnancy seems to be all the rage. From celebrities and US Weekly sightings of “baby bumps” to the alleged pact of pregnant teenage girls in Massachusetts – America is clearly in the throes of baby fever. Having a baby today is not only chic and fashionable, but women go into debt to do it. So what gives in Italy ? And why are Spanish women so reluctant to have babies? What’s going on with the Greeks? How has the culture of large, European families and “Big Fat Greek Weddings” given way to “lowest low fertility”? What’s happening with our sisters across the Atlantic ?


Interestingly, the Times found that fertility and the desire to have children today is linked to a combination of factors – from the culture of a society to the percentage of women in the workforce to the amount of involvement from the dad to the level of workplace flexibility.


Simply put, in Europe and America , working moms with flexibility, supportive spouses, and a government that helps them, are more likely to have kids. So our Scandinavian sisters who get oodles of government aid, paid maternity and paternity leave and subsidized, high quality childcare are much more likely to have children than women in more traditional countries like Italy .


Italian women may be as educated as women in Norway but because of cultural differences, Italians still prefer women at home and men are less inclined to split childcare duties, Italian women are much less likely to have kids. But in Norway , where the government provides generous paid leave to both parents, promoting family time and greater gender equality, women have higher fertility rates. Interestingly, in
Europe working moms were more likely than stay-at-home moms to have more children.



Fascinating article, thanks!


Dads may be helping a bit more, but the ratio of wife to husband in terms of housework and childcare hasn't changed in 90 years according to a researcher Sampson Lee Blair, associate professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo. In hard numbers today, the average wife participates in 31 hours of housework a week while the average husband does 14. Women’s education and elevation in the workforce and in earning power have created an environment in which change is possible, but we see men helping equitably only in rare cases (Lisa Belkin article, New York Times, June 15, 2008) In discussing this issue on a Psychology Today "Singletons" blog in relationship to the trend toward smaller families, I asked: "If men helped more, would women have more babies?" Although many other issues affect childbearing decisions, how much help your partner provides is surely a consideration for working mothers.
Susan Newman, Ph.D.


I feel like I'm noticing more women in their late 20s and early 30s having 2-3 babies close together and staying in the workforce. My 3 kids are spread out and I feel like that's the only way I could make it work with working, but I'm really impressed with the women I see having their kids closer together and making it work. I had to drop three kids off at three different places on the way to work after my third baby was born.

If we had guaranteed paid maternity or paternity leave here, we would all probably start having babies earlier and have more time to multiply.

Working Mom to 3