This prospective population-based study examined associations between children’s behaviour problems and maternal employment. Information on children’s behaviour problems at 3 years from 22,115 mothers employed before pregnancy and participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study were linked to national register data on employment and relevant social background factors, mothers’ self-reported susceptibility to anxiety/depression and mother-reports of day-care attendance and fathers’ income. Mothers reporting their child to have severe (>2 SD) internalizing or severe combined behaviour problems (5 %) had excess risk of leaving paid employment irrespective of other important characteristics generally associated with maternal employment (RR 1.24–1.31). The attributable risk percent ranged from 30.3 % (internalizing problems) to 32.4 % (combined problems). Externalizing behaviour problems were not uniquely associated with mothers leaving employment.