Can We Have It All? Painting a Picture of the Adjunct, Clinical, and Tenured/ Tenure-Track Faculty Mother Experience At a Large Southern Public Research University

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University of Alabama Libraries

Historically, gender norms have allowed faculty who were men to remain an ideal worker by being dedicated to work regardless of family status because they had a wife to keep up the domestic and childcare duties (Tierney & Bensimon, 1996; Wolf-Wendel & Ward, 2006). Although both men and women have served as faculty members and parents, the physical demands of motherhood and the gendered expectations for mothers proved the work/parenting role balance to be harder on faculty women. Academic women have suffered what is referred to as a motherhood penalty by taking on a disproportionate burden of childcare responsibilities compared to academic men counterparts, which has the potential to influence promotional opportunities for women and lead to a lack of women's representation and diverse perspectives within roles of power at institutions of higher education (Silbert & Dubé, 2021). To improve equity for and representation of faculty mothers, we need to better understand the challenges, goals, and separation/integration of their faculty and mother roles. This qualitative research study aimed to better understand faculty mothers' lived experiences serving as both a faculty member and a mother within the southern culture of a large, public research institution located in the southeastern region of the United States. The study focused on better understanding adjunct, clinical, and tenure-track faculty mothers' integration and/or separation of the two full-time roles of faculty member and mother. The researcher used narrative analysis informed by portraiture and took interviews, letter writing, photo submission, and observations to co-construct detailed portraits of 13 participants' lived experiences. Portraits revealed both unique and valuable stories of each participant and portrayed overlapping aspects from findings that have implications about the experiences of faculty mothers in higher education. One overarching finding represented in each faculty mother portrait was the positivity, strength, and resiliency they used to thrive in both roles. As one participant noted, "You have achieved what might have seemed impossible for so long. You are in a good place in your career, able to add to a discipline you love, all the while getting the blessing of being a mother."

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Balance, Faculty Women, Gender Norms, Motherhood, Portraiture, Southern Culture