Failing to achieve family size ideals and the reality of motherhood in regional New South Wales, Australia: evidence from a qualitative approach

Donna M. Y. Read, The University of Sydney
Judith Crockett, Charles Sturt University
Robyn Mason, Monash University

In common with other countries with below replacement fertility, a gap between the number of children desired and achieved fertility has been identified in Australia. Qualitative data collected from 26 women with young children (using semi-structured interviews and focus groups) implies that this gap should not be automatically interpreted as an unmet desire for children. Rather it is likely to reflect reconsideration of desired family size due to changing priorities and other preferences emerging, at least in part, because their ideal image of motherhood is not realized in their experience. The women in the study reported a lack of practical support is making it difficult for them to manage motherhood. These findings suggest the stated number of children desired could be brought closer to achieved fertility if it were possible to convey to young women what motherhood is really like and provide greater practical support to women with children.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility, family and children