The changing face of motherhood in Portugal
In Portugal the concept of motherhood has undergone significant change since the beginning of the twentieth century. From the pro-natal, traditionalist image of motherhood promoted during the years of the Salazar regime, through the profound social and political reforms of the immediate post-revolution era of the 1970s and 80s, through to more recent economic and social change, the lives of mothers are quite different now from what they were fifty or sixty years ago.
As in other Southern European countries, Portuguese mothers are now having children later, marrying later (or sometimes not at all) and having smaller families. Unlike other Southern European countries, however, Portuguese mothers are also leading the way in terms of participation in the workforce, with a majority of mothers returning to full-time work after their children are born. Relatively high levels of education among women also partly explain why working mothers experience less of a gender pay gap in Portugal than in some other European countries.
At the same time, the role of mothers in the family remains largely unchanged: women are still responsible for the lion’s share of childcare and spend more than twice as much time as men on household chores, cooking and cleaning. Despite recent reforms to childcare, there is still a gap between mothers’ working responsibilities and state provision for looking after children while mothers are at work. This means that childcare responsibilities are taken up by extended family networks — or mothers simply become busier. Both at the state level (reflected in an shortfall in childcare provision) and at the family level (reflected in traditional gender division of labour) there is still the expectation that women are ‘naturally’ better in the domestic and emotional spheres of the home. On the other hand, mothers are also under increasing pressure to perform to a similarly high level in professional contexts as well. Like mothers elsewhere in Europe, then, mothers in Portugal face the challenge of balancing increased independence, equality and opportunity alongside traditional ideas about gender and, perhaps most importantly, they face the practical constraints of fitting all these complex aspects of modern motherhood into the hours available in the day.
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The Changing Face of Motherhood research was commissioned by Procter & Gamble (P&G)