Family, Youth and Community Sciences News

Research-based information, resources, and tips for families, consumers, and educators; provided by the faculty of the University of Florida/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

Family Album Radio: Trends in Maternity Leave for First-time Mothers

Family Album RadioListen to the podcast: Maternity Leave for First-Time Mothers
Written by Donna Davis

The birth of a child, especially the first child, brings dramatic changes to any family. Among the many new challenges couples address is whether or not mom will work outside the home. As mothers struggle with the decision of whether or not to go to work after their child is born, they might find the most recent information from the U.S. Census enlightening.

In a 2005 report on maternity leave and employment patterns of first time mothers, Census Bureau analysts traced the history of working mothers over the past 40 years.

Among their findings, about 57 percent of new mothers worked full time during their pregnancy in the late 1990s to 2000, up from 40 percent in the early 1960s.

In addition, the number of women who returned to work within a year of giving birth more than doubled from the late 1980s to the end of the 1990s, to 65 percent.

The Census report concluded that a number of factors have contributed to women’s work experience since the 1960s, including increased levels of education and waiting until later to have their first child.

With these changes, women are staying at work longer during their pregnancy, are returning more rapidly after the birth of their first child and are choosing to blend work and childrearing more than women did in the 1960s.

Of course, today more couples are also asking whether or not dad will work outside the home when mom is the primary wage earner, but that's for another page in the Family Album.

Listening, learning and living together, it’s the science of life. “Family Album” is a co-production of the University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and ofWUFT-FM.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit our website at

Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-Time Mothers: 1961–2000