Supporting #momlife: A Balancing Act – Mom, Student, and Professional

Supporting #momlife: A Balancing Act – Mom, Student, and Professional

Aubrey B. Holt (Arkansas Tech University, USA) and Dana J. Tribble (Arkansas Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3819-0.ch015
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This chapter explores balancing the act of a mother, student, and professional through the self-authorship lens. The researchers reflect on their experiences and challenges in the intersectionality of the three specified roles and how self-authorship supported their navigation through these triumphant times. In addition, the researchers share their personal stories of how they accomplished their unique goals individually yet highlight the similarities of their paths and their methods that have led them to success. Lastly, the researchers provide best practices to establish support and mentorship; enhance resilience, grit, and self-authorship; and refine organizational and time management skills from the perspective of a woman.
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The first-grade class has a school party, and they need drinks and snacks brought to the school. The baby is sick again, so meetings have to be rescheduled to take her to a doctor's appointment. A paper in research class is due, and it has not been started. The Blackboard shells for the courses need to be created because classes start next week. All of this needs to be done this week on top of taking care of the house and kids. How will all of this ever get done?

This is the typical thought process of women in higher education who balance mother, student, and professional roles. Scholars continue to explore whether women can successfully pursue the demands of higher education and maintain a balance of mom, student, and professional (Mazerolle & Barrett, 2018). There are times when the authors come face to face with that same doubt. The lack of conviction knocks you to your knees, only to force you to get up stronger. A strength that is grounded in the authors holding on tight to self-authorship. Clenching onto self-regulation, positive relationships, and identified values and goals are what the authors focus on to persevere (Kegan, 1994; Baxter Magolda & King, 2008). The authors’ stories are told through the lens of self-authorship.

This chapter offers a unique perspective of two women who have similar lives but chose two different paths to complete a doctoral degree while balancing the roles of mom, student, and professional. Both directions had challenges, and as mothers, there was another level of difficulty in navigating an education. The authors discuss their journeys to achieving their educational goals and the lessons learned along the way. This chapter aims to share the best practices to establish support and mentorship, enhance resilience, grit, and self-authorship, and refine organizational and time management skills from a woman's perspective.


Literature Review

The authors are women in higher education who identify with multiple roles in life. Those roles consist of moms, students, professionals, and spouses. The demands of these roles feel never-ending but so fruitful. The authors are passionate about what they do and strive to make a difference in their field. They think it would be beneficial to share their journeys and learning experiences to provide a sense of inclusion for other women facing challenges balancing multiple roles. Lastly, the authors want to provide best practices that have supported their success to give support to other women.

Women in Higher Education

Women have increased their pursuit of higher education for decades. They have earned over 50 percent of all associate degrees since 1978, all bachelor’s degrees since 1982, all master’s degrees since 1987, and doctoral degrees since 2006 (Johnson, 2017). However, while women have been achieving higher education goals at a high rate for over thirty years, this has not yielded higher rates of women in leadership positions within higher education (Johnson, 2017; Parker, 2015). The data shows that the leadership pipeline has more than enough qualified women, but they are not ascending to higher leadership roles at the same rate as men. In addition, women who achieve leadership roles such as president or chief academic affairs officer are less likely to be married or to have children than their male counterparts (Johnson, 2017). Women are proving themselves with the education credentials to pursue leadership positions, but other mitigating factors impact their educational and career paths. These factors include how the multiple roles in their lives influence their priorities when making decisions for their academic and career path.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mentorship: A relationship between two people that allows a more experienced individual to guide a less experienced individual in their education and career.

Grit: Ability to persevere through challenges.

Intersectionality: How an individual’s different social identities intersect in their lives that can be discriminating or challenging.

Organizational skills: Ability to prioritize and filter information into identified categories to increase productivity.

Self-Authorship: The process of creating a self-defined vision by identifying one’s beliefs, identity, and social relations.

Resilience: Ability to overcome obstacles or hardships and keep moving forward.

Time Management Skills: Ability to allocate time adequately for tasks and commitments to be completed on-time.

Work-Life Balance: The dispute between work commitments and personal life commitments that challenge personal priorities and time management.

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