Balancing work and child care: what makes us mums happy?

Guest post by Laura from the Labels4Kids team

I recently read an article that really hit home, especially because I am Dutch myself.

The article investigated Dutch women’s participation in the labour market, distinguishing between women who work full time and women who work part time and linking it to their welfare and happiness. You can read the article here.

The biggest conclusion is that Dutch women work part time, and that working part-time makes them among the happiest women in the world according to OECD statistics (find them here and here).

Now, there seem to be two perspectives on this situation. First of all, the feminist perspective that is not fond of women working part-time, because it affects their representation in top management functions and on boards of big companies. Heleen Mees argues that women need to drop working part time and taking up a larger part of child care, in favor of working full time so they can hold top functions in top careers.

Her main counterpart in the article I mentioned above, Marie-Louise van Haeren, argues that it is exactly because of women working part-time that the Netherlands ranks consistently high in statistics for well being, welfare and happiness. Dutch women, according to the article, do more of the household chores and they are also more involved in the care of their children, all of which is possible because they work 3o hours per week or under, argues van Haeren.

Both have valid arguments, but if this proves anything, it seems to be that the work-life balance is still a finicky topic for mums, and that nothing is to be taken for granted. If a mother chooses to work full time, she can get ‘better’ jobs but will miss more of her children’s lives. If she works part-time, she might have to settle for a job below her capacity.

Whatever your stance is in this matter, I think we as a society still have a lot of room to grow in improving the balance between our jobs and our private lives. I firmly believe that it is a personal choice to either work full time as a mum, or part time, or to be a stay at home mum. It should not be dictated by societal norms, but by women’s own requirements for happiness.

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