Master Mothers: A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experience of Married Women with Children Who are Enrolled in a Master's Degree

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Franke, Bernadette
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Research regarding women in higher education has focused predominantly on single mothers. Married women who have children and are enrolled in graduate studies are faced with a complex interplay of demands. The purpose of the study is to explore the lived experience of married women with children who are enrolled in a Master's degree program, in order to gain a better understanding of their unique challenges. This study employs a hermeneutic, phenomenological, qualitative method to study the lived experience of five women who were married or in a long term relationship, were mothers, and were enrolled in a Master's degree program. The author's experiences as a married mother enrolled in a Master's degree were also incorporated into the study, as well as thoughts and reflections of the author throughout the research. Bracketing, a qualitative research method to mitigate the potential effects of the researcher's preconceptions on the research outcome, was integrated into the hermeneutic approach. Data were collected through a semi-structured interview format with four of the participants and a collection of journal entries provided by one of the participants presented with the single question, What does it mean to you to be enrolled in a Master's degree program as a married woman and mother? The interpretative analysis of the data identified two themes, Yearning, and Balancing pressures. Subthemes for theme one were identified as: Improving myself, I strive to do my best, I want to make a difference, I am more than just a mother, I can do it, lifelong learning is part of who I am, and carving out me time. Subthemes for theme two were identified as: being a good enough mother, partnering the supporter, and student as antagonist.