Is There a ‘right’ Time? Exploring Women’s Views and Understandings on the Timing of Motherhood in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Mackintosh, Maria
Goedeke, Sonja
Item type
Research Project
Degree name
Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

Despite the trend in the Western world of many women delaying motherhood beyond 30 years of age, motherhood is still recognised as a central role for women. Consequently, most women in Western societies are continuing to become mothers at some stage in their lives. Recent research that has focused on people’s views and understandings about the ‘right’ timing of motherhood has emphasised the complexity of the decision-making process for women. The aim of this research was to explore New Zealand women’s views and understandings relating to the ‘right’ time for motherhood, with an intention to gain greater insight into the factors that may be influencing women’s decisions about the timing of motherhood. Two focus groups with a total of 13 women aged 25 to 32 years old were conducted. This study specifically targeted women without children, seeking to gain an understanding of the decision-making process for women who may or may not choose to have children. Thematic analysis within a constructionist framework was used to analyse the various ways women in New Zealand talked about their views and understandings regarding the ‘right’ time for motherhood. Three main themes were identified: personal factors, relationship factors and social pressures. When defining the ‘right’ time for motherhood, women expressed the importance of many personal factors being in place before having children, including being the ‘right’ age, developing financial security and emotional maturity, finishing education and establishing their careers. In addition, they emphasised the significance of having certain relationship factors in place before motherhood. Women described wanting not only a committed relationship before motherhood but also for their partners to equally want children. Furthermore, participants recognised the influence of wider society in framing the ‘right’ time to have children; commenting on the direct and indirect pressures they felt from family members, friends and the media surrounding their timing of motherhood. The findings from the current study indicate that the women’s construction of the ‘right’ time to have children was largely defined by their perceptions of what was necessary in order to be a ‘good’ parent, and consequently, timing of motherhood was based on whether or not they perceived that they met the criteria. This study highlights that women’s reproductive decision-making should be understood from a holistic perspective that acknowledges the biological parameters of fertility while also addressing social, cultural and structural factors affecting women’s reproductive autonomy

Defining the 'right' time for motherhood , 'right age' , 'right' personal and social conditions , 'good' parent
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