Career disruption for mums can last far beyond the baby years, with many women choosing to go part-time or stop work entirely to care for their families.

A survey of 2,500 mothers conducted by the Guardian and Netmums has found that those women who returned to work after taking maternity leave often gave it up again once their children started school. For some, this will mean giving up work permanently.

Nearly 60 per cent of respondents said they wanted to be at home to support their children’s learning through homework and reading, to help supervise school trips, or to make attending after-school activities easier.

The survey also found that mothers are more likely to find it difficult to balance the demands of their careers with the needs of their children, and that this can continue even when their children have become teenagers.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, said the needs of young teenagers often takes parents by surprise: “The truth is that the older your children get, the more they need you emotionally. Once they get to secondary school, they also need a great deal of help to organise all the homework and other academic demands they’re suddenly faced with.”

Scarlet Harris, Women’s Equality Officer at the TUC and author of the Women Over 50 In The Workplace report, adds that employers often assume that women in their 50s no longer have child-rearing responsibilities and may therefore be unsympathetic to requests for flexible working or similar forms of assistance.

“There’s a lot of focus on childcare in the very early years but the assumption is that this goes away when the children get to school,” said Harris.

“But given that ONS figures show that nearly half of all births in 2013 were to mothers aged 30 and above, and one in 25 babies is born to a mother over the age of 40, it is perhaps less surprising that women in their early 50s are still caring for their children.”

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