Using the microdata for 35 countries over the period 1985 to 1994 and 1994 to 2002 we find that labour market institutions are traditionally associated with more compressed wage structures and a higher family gap. Our results indicate that these policies reduce the price effect of having children but aggravate the human capital loss due to motherhood. We also find evidence that policies that help women to continue in the same job after childbirth decrease the family gap. Of all the countries we study, mothers in Southern Europe suffer the biggest family gap and our analysis indicates that this is due to the bad combination of labour market policies in these countries. Our results are robust to specification changes and indicate that the main reason for mothers to lag behind other women in terms of earnings is the loss of accumulated job market experience caused by career breaks around childbirth.