A Qualitative Study of Working Mothers in Ireland: An Exploration of ‘Lived Experiences’

By Jacinta Byrne-Doran.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Analysis of the personal lives of women has received significant attention in recent years, including the work of Smart (2007), Hollway (2006), and Gatrell (2005). The increased presence of women in the labour force has impacted the lives of both men and women as working parents, but more particularly has impacted working mothers (Hochschild 1989, 1997; Fine-Davis et al. 2004; and ILO, 2010). The relationship between work and our personal lives offers a rich source of narrative, illuminating how lives are lived against various socio contextual backgrounds. This paper aims to identify themes pertaining to the lived experiences of a sample of working mothers in Ireland. Utilising a social constructionist epistemology and an adaptation of Wengraf’s (2001) biographical narrative interview method, qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 11 mothers engaged in paid employment outside the home in Ireland. Participants were interviewed on two occasions, a process that resulted in an abundance of rich qualitative data, which was investigated using thematic analysis (Kohler Riessman, 2008). Prior to carrying out the second interviews, participants received transcripts of their first interview to read, introducing a reflective element into their participation. While the lived experiences of mothers, working part-time, full-time and shift-work bases, shows differences in the crossover between work and home, analyses of the data points to the value of work in the lives of these mothers. The significance of intergenerational role models is pertinent to this study, despite often huge variations in life experiences among different generations of women. Also significant within their lived experience was a responsible work ethic with regard to both home and labour domains. Working mothers were found to partake in daily reflective processes in addressing the demands of their work and home lives, where communication with and the support of partners was fundamental to their experiences of balance.

Keywords: Lived Experiences, Working Mothers, Work-Life Balance, Narrative

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 11, pp.101-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 811.674KB).

Dr. Jacinta Byrne-Doran

Lecturer in Psychology, School of Humanities, Department of Applied Arts, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland, Ireland

Jacinta Byrne-Doran has been employed at Waterford Institute of Technology since 1999. Byrne-Doran’s previous employment includes lecturing and training and independent consultancy in career guidance and counselling. At present, Byrne-Doran is teaching the Masters programme in Social Studies offered at Waterford Institue of Technology, Ireland and the undergraduate Psychology programme and is involved in post graduate research supervision in the Social Sciences. Byrne-Doran’s research interests lie in the areas of home education, the psychology of breastfeeding, and particularly in the area of maternal employment and work role conflict. Conference presentations in 2007 included both international and national presentations on “Home Education in Ireland” and “Analyses of the Healthy Organisation, Employment and Psychoanalytic Theory.” Byrne-Doran’s Membership in professional societies include graduate membership of The British Psychological Society, and Full membership and Registration as a Counselling Psychologist with The Psychological Society of Ireland.


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