But, with women being as career-driven as men these days, families are looking for new ways to balance career and family life.
Taking turns with their partner to get up several times during the night to feed a newborn baby has taken its toll on productivity levels in corporate Australia, so an increasing number of companies have looked to flexible workplace solutions to ease pressures.
Companies, including investment bank Morgan Stanley and law firms such as Mallesons Stephen Jaques, have recognised the need to allow greater flexibility to attract and retain the best staff.
In a climate of threatened recession and rising unemployment, however, a leading workplace researcher has issued a warning to companies to resist the urge to wind back or suspend flexibility reforms.
Barbara Pocock, director of the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia, said the prospect of recession could jeopardise gains made in recent years by companies adopting flexible work practices to allow for a better work-family balance.
"If there is a significant downturn in the market, and unemployment rises as a result, there will be less of a labour-market incentive to allow measures such as workplace-friendly policies that potentially reduce turnover,'' Professor Pocock said.
"A sudden decline could well have an effect on these provisions ... and it would be a very bad thing, as we need the contributions of working parents.''
As conditions have favoured employees for almost a decade, corporations have been adopting flexible working measures to attract and retain the best employees.
Now as the labour market looks likely to contract, measures that potentially detract from productivity may be threatened.
Henrik Moritz, a senior associate in mergers and acquisitions at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, said working part-time since the birth of his daughter had improved his productivity because he had become more content in his personal life and was thereforehappier and more focused at work.
"The flexibility has made a huge difference to how I feel about my input as a parent, but it has focused and motivated my career, as I have that meaningful balance in my life,'' Mr Moritz said.
"I'm more motivated and productive as a result.''
Mallesons Stephen Jaques prides itself on its arrangements with employees and claims a lower staff turnover as a result.
Mr Moritz, 34, works four days a week and has every Monday off to look after eight-month-old Rebekka. His wife Sarah, a lawyer at Minter Ellison, also work four days a week and has every Friday off.
"I'm enjoying work more because I'm happy with my family life; I've got more time and energy for them,'' Mr Moritz said. ``If I didn't, this would take away from the fun I have at work.''
Despite the benefits to both parties, Mr Moritz said his arrangement was still a "novelty'' in commercial law and he had not heard of any other male lawyers working part-time. Professor Pocock said many large firms had begun discussing flexible work practices but had not yet implemented such programs or convinced their staff that taking up flexible workplace options would not hurt their careers.
"Many industries and workplaces suffer `competitive presenteeism', with employees turning up and looking 100 per cent switched on to signal they are serious about promotion and career advancement,'' she said.
However, Juliet Bourke, an employment lawyer and partner at Aequus Partners, said developments in workplace flexibility had gone too far to be wound back or even suspended, even during a recession.
"Many firms struggle with the concept but the momentum is behind an expansion of flexibility,'' she said.
"If you think about law firms and the number of women coming through, things have to change.
"Our research demonstrates that managers are having to understand those requirements.''