The life histories of teacher mothers: exploring a special situation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis, ‘The life histories of teacher mothers: exploring a special situation’ concerns a personally motivated study on the experiences and influences on Primary and Early Years teachers who are also mothers. The study involved unstructured life-history interviews with five teacher-mothers and took a postmodern feminist approach, in that it aimed to tell the stories of women, for women, whilst acknowledging and centring the individual’s experience as unique. Ethical dilemmas were a key part of the study and thesis, including negotiating insider research relationships and maintaining participant voice in the data. It asks three questions: 1. What do the life history stories of teacher mothers suggest about this special circumstance? 2. To what extent does analysis of ‘ecological systems’ and discourses illuminate the life of a teacher mother? 3. What are the points of coalescence and convergence that groups of teacher mothers may relate to, that could be potential sites of new policy and activism? Analysis of interview data involved use of Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, combined with Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems model to create a new model of discourse analysis: ecological systems discourse analysis (ESDA) that considers teacher-mothers’ individual worlds, as well as giving opportunities to map shared themes and positions towards the discourses of teacher-motherhood. This may have future applications for other areas of narrative research. This thesis argues that the special circumstance of being a teacher-mother, whilst unique for every individual, has some points of coalescence of experience. These include the conflicting pressures of work and gender performativity, normalization of overwork, barriers to part-time work, guilt at being ‘good enough’ and a reluctance to identify school leaders as people in a position to change the discourse locally. It concludes that teacher-mothers’ stories are complex and that any local, regional or national policymaking, activism and supportive measures need to acknowledge this. Claims to knowledge include additions to the understanding of teacher-motherhood from coalescences of experience, flexible interview methods for hard to reach groups, the defence of teacher-motherhood as a special circumstance and a new model for discourse analysis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Carter, Caron, Supervisor, External person
  • Tang, Ning, Supervisor, External person
Award date17 Sept 2020
Place of PublicationSheffield
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The life histories of teacher mothers: exploring a special situation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Narrative Matters

    Aimee Quickfall (Speaker) & Kaisa Pihlainen (Speaker)

    14 Jun 202317 Jun 2023

    Activity: Attending or organising conference/seminar/workshopConference

Cite this