Life as a Gyroscope: Creating a Grounded Theory Model for Full-Time Working Mothers in Higher Education Administration Developing and Maintaining a Fulfilling, Balanced Life

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Women in today's society have multiple roles, multiple identities, and multiple challenges - as married women or life partners, as daughters, as sisters, as mothers, as members of communities, and as women in the workforce, among others. In particular, the dual roles of mother and worker can conflict and present challenges for women who want to have both a career and a family. Women working in higher education administration are no exception.

The purpose of this study was to understand the development of a dual-focused outlook by women with children working in the upper levels of higher education administration. By studying the work/life issues and experiences of a small sample of women who are identified as dual-focused, I expected to learn how these higher education administrators managed two significant roles - that of worker and mother - and how these women were able to achieve and maintain a dual-focused orientation. However, what I found was that these women are dual-focused in that they value both motherhood and work, but also that they have extremely strong and well-developed self-concepts.

This study utilized grounded theory methods to understand the development and maintenance of a dual-focused outlook in 12 mid- to upper-level mothers in higher education administration at a large research I institution. By conducting three individual interviews with each participant and one group interview session, I was able to develop a grounded theory and model for full-time working mothers in higher education administration developing and maintaining a fulfilling, balanced life.

Using grounded theory methods, one core category and five key categories emerged. The core category was developing and maintaining a fulfilling, balanced life. The key categories were: valuing self, valuing work, valuing motherhood, negotiating a balanced life, and setting the context. The five key categories overlapped to form the core category. In order to have successful work and family lives, the women in this study were found to place a high value on self, a high value on work, a high value on motherhood, and to rely on support and tools to negotiate a balanced life.