Women's determination to combine childbearing and paid employment: How can a qualitative approach help us understand quantitative evidence?
This paper aims to provide deeper insight into women’s fertility and employment decisions through the exploration of women’s values and beliefs. For our research, we selected Poland, where quantitative studies continuously point to a strong determination among mothers to participate in employment, despite marked institutional obstacles to combining work with childrearing. We demonstrated that motherhood is one of the major goals in women’s lives. Nevertheless, women seek to combine it with employment, and their ability to do so depends on the meaning attached to paid work. Using qualitative data, we identified three such meanings. “Work as an income source” and “work as an attractive activity” are considered desirable and compatible with motherhood, whereas “work as a professional career” precludes childrearing, and is rejected. In addition, our study illustrates how considering values and beliefs can contribute to our understanding of human behaviours, and demonstrates the usefulness of the qualitative approach for this purpose.
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