Labor Pains: The Multiple and Conflicting Roles of Academic Mothers

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration


Department of Educational Administration


Thomas Lasley


This study investigated the lived experiences of tenure-line academic mothers using a narrative methodology and interpretivist and feminist frameworks. Employing a semi-structured protocol, the researcher interviewed twelve tenure-line academic mothers at five midwestern institutions of higher education: one private four-year, one public four-year, one community college, one private Historically Black College or University (HBCU), and one private HBCU. After interviewing the academic mothers, the researcher composed narratives based on the transcripts. She also included her own narrative for analysis. After the narratives were member checked by the participants, the researcher conducted data analysis on the transcripts using low-inference coding. The coding allowed the researcher to focus on emerging themes as part of her plot analysis (Daiute, 2014). Through the use of plot analysis, the researcher uncovered the most prevalent characters, settings, initiating actions, complicating actions, and resolutions across the participants' narratives. The significant characters that emerged were: the mothers themselves, husbands, children, supervisors, and mentors. The salient settings were universities and departments. The initiating actions for academic mothers consisted of the job search/interviews and pregnancy/giving birth. Pregnancy loss and the Covid-19 constituted the most significant complicating actions. Finally, mothers turned to boundary setting and "inscribing motherhood" (Pillay, 2009) as means of resolution.


Educational Leadership, Education Policy, Families and Family Life, academic motherhood, faculty life, faculty development, academic parenthood, pandemic, gender equity, covid-19

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