School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Laura Foster


Motherhood, Attrition, Persistence, Doctoral Degree, Multiple Roles, Role Balance


Education | Higher Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of professional, full-time working mothers who successfully persisted to complete a doctorate degree in an education field through any program type: online, blended, or traditional. Clark’s work/family border theory and Tinto’s student retention theory guided this study, as they connect to the full-time working mothers’ persistence to complete their doctoral degree while holding multiple roles in their lives. Data collection comprised questionnaires, a life map, a Division of Household Roles Survey, and a semi-structured interview to provide rich individual and composite descriptions. The researcher used Moustakas’ modification of Van Kaam’s method of analysis of phenomenological data to arrive at the essence of the participants’ experiences through a seven-step data analysis and triangulation. The findings indicated women felt their abilities, personal ambition, and the potential professional opportunities provided with a doctoral degree outweighed the negative stigma of returning to school as a full-time working mother. Doctoral mothers faced personal, academic, and professional obstacles during their programs, but persisted to completion with tenacity, well-rounded support systems, and self-regulation. Applications of the research can potentially lead to more academic and social support for doctoral moms, realistic views of obstacles, and strategies in place for mothers to self-regulate and compartmentalize their time during the doctoral journey to help manage a semblance of balance.