Three Mothers in Academia: Looking Inwards, Taking Stock, and Moving Forward
Grounded in relational cultural theory (RCT) as an approach for developing women’s sense of self and maintaining connections with one another and with all women across racial, ethnic, and age divides, three mothers in the academy come together to restory our experiences of being and becoming mothers while navigating the higher educational landscape. We focus on critical incidents (Farrell) to create our collective autoethnography. Critical incidents are events that are unplanned and unanticipated and allow one to think about “what happened, why it happened and what else could have been done to reach their goals” (Farrell 3). Sharing our experiences means prioritizing the stories that are often overlooked in higher education institutions, where whiteness and male superiority abound. Specifically, we focus on what it means to navigate institutional expectations, given the mothering norms and responsibilities facing women of colour, who already exist on the margins. Coming together across racial, ethnic, and age divides in the academy led us to disclose specific events that challenged our professional and mothering responsibilities. Although we differ in terms of ethnicity, age, as well as academic and marital status, we still discussed the challenging nature of balancing home and academic lives both before and during the pandemic. We conclude with implications that focus on specific strategies for ourselves as well as others in the academy to support and nurture the development of mothers in academia.
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