An autoethnography of intersecting motherhood and doctoral studies: Sharing the journey

Year: 2021

Author: Schriever, Vicki

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The journey of imperfectly intersecting the identities of mother, wife, doctoral student and academic are revealed in this autoethnography. In this paper, I seek to share my experience of how I merged, managed, and experienced the spheres of motherhood and academia, as I journeyed through my PhD. Yoo (2020) poses the question, “I am a mother, a wife and a scholar, but what does it mean?” (p. 3178). This paper seeks to provide insights into the meanings I made as I negotiated the identities/roles/positions of mother, wife, doctoral student, and academic.In this paper, autoethnographic accounts are interwoven with the literature to share the contradiction and complexity that is mothering during doctoral studies. Autoethnography was fit for purpose as it enabled the exploration of a specific phenomenon – merging motherhood and doctoral studies – to be examined based on my own subjective experiences (Haynes, 2011). Autoethnography allowed for the capturing of highly personal, emotional, and in-depth insights to be shared that otherwise would have remained hidden (Wall, 2008).Huopalainen and Satama (2019) declare, “we know less about how early career researchers perform maternal and professional tensions in their ‘earthy’ everyday lives” (p. 101). Vignettes are presented such as ‘Researching Until Birthing’ and ‘The Material Self as Mother and Doctoral Student’ to provide a glimpse through the window into the lived experience that is merging motherhood and doctoral studies. There is a common stereotype of academic motherhood as negative, oppressive, and exclusive; however, this is not the only narrative (Huopalainen & Satama, 2019). By revealing the complexities of negotiating intersecting and at times competing identities as a mother and doctoral student, this paper is able to provide nuanced insights to share not only the tensions and challenges that exist, but to also acknowledge the benefits, strength, resilience and joys that arise when enacting multiple identities.Haynes, K. (2011). Tensions in (re)presenting the self in reflexive autoethnographical research. Qualitative Research in Organisations and Management, 6(2), 134-149.Huopalainen, A., & Satama, S. (2019). Mothers and researchers in the making: Negotiating ‘new’ motherhood within the ‘new’ academia. Human Relations, 71(1), 98-121.Wall, S. (2008). Easier said than done: Writing an autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7(1), 38-53. Yoo, J. (2020). An autoethnography of mothering in the academy. The Qualitative Report, 25(8), 3173-3184