Women’s work histories are closely interwoven with motherhood, as shown by previous studies that have examined Canadian women’s family histories in relation to their movements of entry into—and exit from—the labour market. These studies have either supported or reinforced, at least implicitly, the existence of an incompatibility between motherhood and paid work. The results of these studies are interesting in that they provided a broad picture of how Canadian women adapted their work lives according to family events. However, the image they reveal is static and incomplete, failing to highlight the changes experienced among recent generations of women. We examined the relationships between motherhood and women’s entry and exit from the workplace and how it has evolved across the generations, by studying women born between 1937 and 1976. Studying the various generations of women allows us to consider a range of possible strategies open to women, given the constraints and opportunities of institutional and social settings across generations. These changes are studied on the basis of retrospective data from Statistics Canada’s 2001 General Social Survey on family history.

Bibliographic Notes

The brief was prepared by Alana Power.