When it comes to having more children, Australian parents need increased personal support as much as they need paid maternity leave and money from the government, according to a study by a PhD researcher at the University of Adelaide, South Australia.
In the study, which involved interviews with 38 mothers and 24 fathers across Adelaide, Ms Lareen Newman found that 24 per cent of the mothers said the thought of being pregnant again put them off wanting another child.
"Coping with morning sickness or feeling fat and unattractive were some of the key reasons, especially if they already had other children to look after.
"The thought of going through birth again was making 34 per cent of the mums think twice about having another baby and 17 per cent of the dads were also reluctant for this reason. Some 60 per cent of both mums and dads said the everyday demands on their time and energy limited the number of children they thought they could cope with," Ms Newman said.
She said this was particularly worse for those with a sick or disabled child, or twins already in the family.
"When thinking about family size, the dads in the Adelaide study tended to be more concerned about the financial costs of more children, and the limits of their house or car size.
"Mums were as concerned about the physical and mental limits of conception, pregnancy and birth, and coping with more children as they were about the financial impact and the need or desire to return to paid work," she said
The study suggests that if people are going to reach their desired family size, then more non-monetary parental support is needed. The politicians' focus on increased family payments and paid leave is certainly welcome, but it overlooks many other areas that could be improved, particularly in the transition to parenthood, such as more personalised maternity services and regular ongoing in-home support.
"This would help reduce the stresses of parenthood and probably help more people be able to cope with having more children. This is especially important in a country like Australia where many people come from overseas without their family, or people move around for work.
"In these respects, better educated and professional women would possibly be amongst those struggling most for support with a new baby and young children."