What are the motivating and limiting factors for mothers in deciding to interrupt, reduce, or continue their professional activity during the years of early childhood? The reasons given by mothers of children under three years of age reflect the dilemma they face between their desire to care for their children and to preserve their professional lives, to minimise childcare costs while maintaining a salary. Job stability, status, occupational category, and educational level appear to be decisive in maintaining employment, but neither restrictive working hours nor marital status distinguish those women who choose to stop working from those who choose to remain in work. The question of childcare, however, is posed in a different way for working mothers, depending on whether they are single or in a relationship. The use of formal or informal childcare is the only alternative available to allow single women access to flexible working hours without reducing their working time, while the partner can ensure continuity of childcare for women who are part of a couple. In particular, mothers’ irregular hours favour parental childcare and the involvement of fathers.
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