A qualitative study of working mothers in ireland: An exploration of 'lived experiences'

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-113
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Lived Experiences
  • Narrative
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Working Mothers


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