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Mini Research Proposal

Leaving Career for Motherhood:
The Impact on a Womens Identity
Lisa Rogers
Loyola University Chicago

Chapter 1: Introduction
According to the United States Census, in 2006 there were 5.8 million
stay-at-home parents. Of that number, 5.6 million were mothers (PalladinoSchultheiss, 2009, p. 25). As the percentage of women in the workforce
continues to grow, there are still many women who opt out of careers in
order to be full time mothers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in
2011 70.6 percent of women with children less than eighteen years of age
were in the workforce (Solis & Galvin, 2012, p. 35). This is compared to 93.5
percent of men with children less than eighteen years of age. This gap is
even larger between men and women when children are less than six years
old. These statistics show that there is a large percentage of womennearly


30 percentwho are making the decision to completely leave the workforce

for motherhood.
When women leave their careers for motherhood, they face a number
of risks and pressures from various people to make the right decision.
According to Palladino-Schultheiss (2009), motherhood may be the most
controversial career a women can havediscourse on motherhood is
wrought with images of women throwing away their career (p. 29).
Research has shown that leaving career for motherhood can be a difficult,
anxiety provoking decision, especially when there are so many competing
opinions from trusted external authorities. Much of this anxiety comes from
dualistic gendered expectations, varying opinions from multiple authorities,
and a womans own comfort with her identity as a woman.
Women have many factors to balance, all of which impact the decisionmaking process women go through as they make they decision to leave
career in order to dedicate time to motherhood. A gap in the literature
suggests that there is little research available about how women make their
decision to leave career for motherhood. This analysis looks deeper at the
large number of mothers who have decided to do just that.
The purpose of the present study is to generate descriptive knowledge
around womens decision-making process for those women who decide to
leave their careers for motherhood. Additionally, the purpose is to
understand how identity impacts the decision-making process and
conversely how the decision to leave career impacted the mothers identity.
Research Questions and Design


Three research questions were developed to address the purpose of

this study:
1. What is the decision-making process for women who make the
decision to leave their careers for motherhood?
2. How does ones identity as a women and a worker impact the
decision-making process?
3. How does the decision-making process and the decision to leave
career impact a womans identity and understanding of her identity
as a woman, worker, and mother?
These questions will be explored using a qualitative, multiple casestudy approach. This method was chosen because the research goal is to
describe how women make the decision to leave their careers that
represents a large part of their lived experiences. Through a series of three
interviews with each participant, the researcher will gain an in-depth
understanding of experiences encompassing the decision-making process
and identity issues during the process. My collection of data will have a
phenomenological slant as I collect data that will describe the general lived
experiences of all women who leave career for motherhood. Learning about
individual processes and looking at the culmination of data with a
phenomenological lens will help me describe the decision-making
phenomenon I hope to study. In order to appropriately examine data related
to identity, a case-study examination of the data will be utilized, as no


womans experience will be exactly the same as another. Using a case study
approach to looking at identity, I will do greater justice to the women I
interview as I will be better able to describe their experiences and decisionmaking processes, given the identity pieces that make each woman unique.
This research has particular significance in two ways. First, it suggests
a need for more flexible and inclusive workplace policies. When women are
faced with the choice of whether or not to leave their careers, they begin to
question whether or not their workplace is inclusive of their dual identities as
worker and as mother. If the workplace is not particularly flexible, they are
more likely to make the decision to leave career. The review of the literature
and proposed research look into how women make these decisions, including
how workplace policies may impact their decision. If we had more inclusive
workplace policies that allowed women to work and mother, the need for this
research would be lower.
Secondly, this research has implications for career counselors working
with young women in college or high school settings. Many of the factors
women consider when making the decision to leave work for motherhood,
including information they have gathered about what it stereotypically
appropriate for a woman given her gender. For career counselors it is
important to ensure that ones own biases regarding gender appropriateness
are kept to oneself. This being said, a career counselor should be aware of
the potential struggles women might face and the possible decision-making
process that may ensue if she chooses a career or employer that is not
accepting of this dual identity.


Overall, this research will contribute new knowledge about womens

dual roles and how they navigate them. This research will contribute to
further understanding about how women make the decision to leave their
careers for family and how that impacts their multiple identities and
understanding of self. The research fills a significant gap in the literature
regarding women, work, and motherhood.
Limitations of this study have not been fully explored, however a nonexhaustive list of limitations may include the inability to generalize across
populations, inherent bias, and the lack of a contrasting analysis. Firstly,
there is likely inherent bias in the way that I approach this study and review
of the literature. I chose this topic because I am a young women thinking
about my future and how I am going to make the decision between career,
family, or both when that time comes. Right now, I assume there is a
decision to be made, but for some women, a career is just work and leaving
it may have no impact on how they see themselves as women. This research
assumes that this decision is difficult for the majority of women with to
make, but this could be proven incorrect.
A second limitation of the study is that this research lacks a contrasting
analysis. This refers to the fact that this research does not include how
women make the decision to stay in careers while mothering. This is an area
for future research because this analysis strictly focuses on women who
leave career to raise a family when children are young, despite the fact that
they may return to careers later on in life. Keeping this in mind, we can


assume that there is a similar, but different process for those women versus
the women from whom data is gathered in the present study.
A third and final limitation to this research is the generalizability of the
study to the greater population of mothers. As stated, this study uses a
multiple case-study approach, which means the data will delve deep into
womens individual experiences. Because of this we cannot be sure that the
data collected and patterns identified can be applied to all women currently
in the workforce who are in the process of making the decision to leave
career for motherhood. Additionally, other identities (e.g. race, sexual
orientation, ability, etc.) aside from female and woman identities were not
controlled for or included intentionally as part of the analysis. In examining
individual data, there may be some small noticeable patterns as a result of
other identities; however, they are not part of the greater analysis. Again,
this is another area for future research.

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature

The cultural script around career and mothering has shifted in a way
that has caused women to feel as though they need to do everything and be
everything for everyone. As women engage in the workplace in greater
numbers, the expectations of a womans role as mothers have not. This puts
women in a place of struggle, especially when they have built a career and


then are forced to make a decision regarding whether or not to be a full-time

mother only, leaving their career behind or pausing it temporarily.
This review of the literature starts with types of career patterns, the
concept of a split dream, (Farber, 1996), and the desire to have it all. The
review then covers expectations of women and the factors women consider
when making the decision to leave work for motherhood, including a brief
review of some of the risks women face when they leave work. Finally,
Baxter-Magoldas (2008) Theory of Self-Authorship is used to examine how
women make meaning of their experiences through this decision-making
process and how that meaning-making influences her identity as a women,
mother, and career person. The literature shows that womens decisionmaking process around leaving career for motherhood is an area in need of
further study.
Career and Family Patterns
Every womans experience is unique and cannot be generalized across
the board, but there are a few different patterns from which women tend to
choose their path. According to Whitmarsh, Brown, Cooper, HawkinsRodgers, and Keyser Wentworth (2007), there are three patterns: unitrack,
sequential, and multitrack (p. 230). The unitrack pattern is described as
engaging in career or motherhood, without the added role of the other at the
same time. The sequential pattern is described as an initial career history
followed by an interruption to focus on the responsibilities of motherhood,
followed by a return to career. The multitrack pattern is becoming more and
more common and is described as juggling expectations associated with
both full-time career and mothering. When making the decision as to


whether or not to leave career for motherhood, women are choosing one of
these patterns. Multitrack is becoming the most desirable option, but many
women still choose a unitrack or sequential pattern given the pressures on
women to successfully have it all.
Having it All
Todays women hold a split dream, which encompasses a desire for
both career and family. According to Farber (1996), women wanting it all
has puzzled career theorists as it was thought that career and homemaking
were distinct orientations that could not coexist (p. 330). This theoretical
assumption comes out of the fact that maternal and work identities, as
constructed in our culture, are dialectic (Johnston and Swanson, 2007, p.
449). Not only are these patterns separate, they are divided along gendered
lines. According to Palladino-Schultheiss (2009), conventional gendered
definitions of work reflect a split[that renders] invisible alternative
definitions of work (p. 30). The jobs of motherhood and employment are
performed in separate contexts.
United States culture is set up in such a way that keeps these two
realms divided. Despite this, women evaluate the combination of
wife/mother/career as the most attractive role option according to Bridges
(1987) (Hoffnung, 2004, p. 711). Even with the overlap in roles, women
pursuing a career still want the time and flexibility to satisfy family needs
and they want to be the one to pick their child up from school if they are sick
(Crowley & Kolenikov, 2014, p. 186). This is not too much for women to ask
for, but given the gendered nature of work and of mothering, women are


faced with balancing their multiple roles and fulfilling all of them successfully
as specified by the cultural script.
Overall, young women are willing to delay starting a family in order to
pursue a career, however they are still very committed to having one
(Hoffnung, 2004). Balancing these competing desires can be trying.
Hoffnung (2004) identifies four components that affect whether or not one
can be successful in balancing career and family. The first component
centers on the type of career women choose. For example, if a career is
more flexible, balancing career and family may be easier. In fact, Hoffnung
(2004) found that the historically common solution to balancing work and
family was to choose a female-dominated profession that tends to allow
more integration of mothering responsibilities.
The second component is marriagewhether and when women marry
and what division of labor looks like in the household. The third component
is motherhoodhow many children women have. Finally, the fourth
component is attitude, which includes individual opinions about womens role
within the household, work, or marriage. If a woman has more traditional
views that include staying home and caring for children, she is less likely to
be successful in balancing career and family. Balancing work and family
responsibilitiesremains a challenge and still poses a barrier for women
(Landivar, 2014, p. 213), however according to Perrone-McGovern (2012),
the boundary between worker and mother identities is becoming more
permeable and fluid.



The cultural script in the United States has changed from the selfless
mother of the past, to the superwoman of the present (Farber, 1996, p.
331). This alludes to the number of roles and responsibilities women are
expected to successfully fulfill. Women are expected to by everything to
everyone. At the same time, the older cultural script, as described by
Johnston and Swanson (2007), enforces expectations that make women
responsible for childcare. Not only are they responsible for child care, it is an
expectation that decisions made by a mother should be appropriate and
responsible given the needs of children and family. Johnston and Swanson
(2007) call these intensive mothering expectations and argue that they
position mothers as the sole source of child guidance, nurturance,
education, and physical emotional sustenance (p. 448).
These expectations make it difficult for women to successfully manage
both career and family because they are pulled in opposite directions.
Mothers are also forced to justify their desire to work. Johnston and Swanson
(2007) cite that many women feel the only way they can justify their desire
to work is by describing it as a financial need. Feeling pressure to justify
actions this way continues to belittle a womens right to work and mother
even in a time when women are accepted and successful in the workplace.
Palladino-Schultheiss (2009) describes the history of the gendered nature of
career and family by saying the womens movement gained momentum
through transformations of the feminine into male-dominated hierarchies
rather than through struggles to have womens experiences validated (p.



27). This speaks to the fact that women can work in a career and in the
home, so long as they are not letting their womanly responsibilities faulter.
This circles back to the concept of having it all and balancing career
and family. The demands of external reality often cause women to adjust
their career expectations to provide a compatible match with marriage and
family responsibilities (Whitmarsh et al., 2007, p. 231). Adjusting career
expectations can look a multitude of ways, including taking an extended
leave, reducing hours, or switching to a career that can better accommodate
the demands family puts on mothers. Ferber and Green (2003) echo that it
is extremely difficult for women to balance career and family and argue that
there is great concern about the problems women encounter combining
career and family, in part because of the difficulties in doing justice to both,
and in part because of the strains on the individuals who do combine both
(p. 143).
Women know that combining career and motherhood is extremely
difficult, but in many cases they continue to attempt it. Making the decision
to leave career for family could have many career-related risks for women.
When in the decision-making process, women consider a variety of factors,
including career risks. The following addresses those factors and risks.
Factors in the Decision-Making Process
Though researchers do not know much about how mothers navigate
the decision-making process when deciding to leave their career for family,
they do know that women must consider a variety of factors in order to make
a decision. Some of these factors include perceived career harm, societal



value orientation, and relationships. These factors, among others, are

influential in the decision-making process.
Perceived Career Harm
The major factor in the decision-making process is perceived career
harm. Many of the perceptions women hold about how their careers may be
harmed are grounded in reality. Women who reduce their hours at work or
leave altogether are at greater risk for marginalization, may be given less
important or interesting work, are more vulnerable to layoffs, and are viewed
by employers and coworkers as less committed to their work (Landivar,
2014, p. 212). Crowley and Kolenikov (2014) cite Schwarz (1989) findings
that opting into the mommy track was not cost free and that women who
elected to take advantage of this option [to leave career] should expect
slower wage growth and other more limited employment opportunities (p.
In these quotes from the literature we see that wages and workplace
discrimination are the greatest risks to career that women must consider
when deciding whether or not to leave work for family. Kahn, GarciaManglano, and Bianchi (2014) report findings similar to Landivar (2014) that
mothers may face greater workplace discrimination because they are
perceived by employers to be less competent and committed to their jobs
than childless women. Wages were also found to suffer for women who exit
the workforce for a substantial amount of time. Kahn et al. (2014) found that
having and raising children interferes with the accumulation of human
capital and hence the level of productivity, which then translates to lower
wages (p. 56). Budig and England (2001) discovered similar findings and



estimated that the wage penalty is approximately seven percent per child
(Crowley and Kolenikov, 2014, p. 170).
If women perceive greater career harm, they are less likely to fully exit
the workforce for motherhood. This is especially true if they have high
career salience. When a career has less personal meaning to a mother, they
are more likely to leave their career in lieu of motherhood (Raskin, 2006).
These potential risks to career can be controlled if there is greater flexibility
in the workplace that allows for work and mothering to coexist.
Value Orientation
Perrone-McGovern (2012) identified four societal value orientations
that impact workplace culture and individual values, which in turn impact
mothers decision-making process. The first of the four orientations is
individualism versus collectivism, which impacts whether or not a workplace
or individual is supportive of community. When it comes to motherhood,
workplaces with a collectivist view are more supportive of a woman and her
multiple roles. If this were the case, she would be less likely to leave her
The second is humane orientation, which is the degree to which a
society values kindness and generosity. In this orientation as it relates to
work and motherhood, an employer that holds a strong humane orientation
would have workplace policies in place that allows women to navigate both
mothering and work roles.
The third orientation is specificity versus diffusion is the degree to
which social constructs are viewed as separate or as one. In a diffuse
society, like the United States, roles are compartmentalized. In this case,



mother and worker identities are seen as separate and are difficult to
The final orientation is gender egalitarianism, which focuses on the
minimization of differences between genders. In the United States, there are
very clear gender roles. This is particularly true when it comes mothering.
Women are responsible for rearing children regardless of whether or not the
work, as described early in this review of the literature.
Relationships are the final primary factors women consider when
making the decision to leave career for motherhood. Motulsky (2014)
argued, career decision making has traditionally been viewed as primarily
an individual, objective, and rational process, (p. 1083), but other research
has shown that parents, partners, friends, colleagues, and supervisors
greatly impact the decision-making process. Palladino-Schultheiss (2009)
Motherhood may be the most controversial career a woman can have
women who make [the choice to leave career] are often greeted with
surprise, disapproval, and a lack of understandingnot only from
coworkers, colleagues, and supervisors, but also from family and
friends. Discourse on motherhood is wrought with images of women
throwing away their career or wasting their well-deserved and wellearned education (p.29).
As is evident in Motulsky (2014) and Palladino-Schultheiss (2009) research,
relationships impact the decision-making process regardless of the context or
type of the relationship. Jacobsen (1999) argued, disapproval from others as
well as a struggle with ones self, comes from values and worldviews from



family of originabout what [is] possible, good, or desired on career and life
choices (Motulsky, 2014, 1091). Regardless of whether or not others
opinions are expressed to mothers, mothers are constantly thinking about
what others will think of their decision to leave career.
Theoretical Orientation
Many theories can be used to analyze the decision-making process
women go through. In reviewing the literature, a relational cultural
perspective is the most used theoretical orientation. This perspective is used
because a relational approach to career developmentdescribes the
interaction between career and other life roles within the larger societal
context (Perrone-McGovern, 2012, p. 21). A relational approach focuses on
a womans interactions with the world because as Blustein (2004) puts it,
women do not make career decisions in a relational vacuum (Motulsky,
2014, p. 1080).
For the purposes of combining the decision-making process, meaningmaking, and identity as they relate to women leaving careers for family,
Baxter-Magoldas Theory of Self Authorship is used to frame the proposed
research. Self-Authorship is defined by Baxter-Magolda (2008) as the
internal capacity to coordinate, integrate, act upon, or invent values,
beliefs, convictions, generalizations, ideals, abstractions, interpersonal
loyalties, and interpersonal states (p. 270). At the most basic level, selfauthorship focuses on learning how to negotiate and act on our own
purposesrather than those we have uncritically assimilated from others
(Baxter-Magolda, 2008, p. 270). This is crucial not only to the decision-



making process mothers go through, but also to identity formation and

reformation as roles change and shift.
There are four sequential stages to Baxter Magoldas Theory of Self
Authorship as documented by Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, and Renn
(2010). They are: following formulas, crossroads, becoming the author of
ones life, and internal foundation. The final two stages consist of the three
elements of self-authorship: trusting the internal voice, building on an
internal foundation, and securing internal commitments.
In the first stage, following formulas, individuals use external
authorities to decide what to believe, how to view themselves, and how to
construct relationships with others (Baxter-Magolda, 2009, p. 628). In
times of uncertainty in this stage, individuals feel discomfort and sense of
obligation to live up to authorities expectations. This is particularly relevant
to mothers who leave the workforce when they are faced with parents or
supervisors who may be disappointed in the decision they make.
In the second stage, crossroads, individuals discover that the plans
they have followed do not necessarily work well and that they need to
establish new plans that better suit their needs and interests (Evans et al.,
2010, p. 185). Individuals spend this time examining what truly makes them
happy and what is important to them. They begin to separate feelings from
external expectations (Baxter-Magolda, 2009). The proposed research will
look at womens process when they begin to separate themselves from the
internalized expectations of others.
In the third stage, becoming the author of ones own life, individuals
are able to choosebeliefs and stand up for them in the face of conflicting



external viewpoints (Evans et al., 2010, p. 186). This is a time of intensive

reflection when one develops a strong self-concept. In thinking of mothers
leaving the workforce, this is where one learns how to convey their decisionmaking process to others and be comfortable in doing so. In the fourth
stage, internal foundation, individuals have solidified a comprehensive
system of belief (Evans et al., 2010, p. 186). They are aware of external
opinions, but are not greatly affected by them.
Within the final two stages, there are three elements that signal one is
approaching a fully self-authored life. The three elements are: trusting the
internal voice, building on an internal foundation, and securing internal
commitments. Trusting the internal voice means that an individual
recognizes that what happens to them is beyond their control, but reactions
to what happens are within their control (Baxter-Magolda, 2008). Individuals
are able to take more ownership of meaning-making. Building on an internal
foundation is identified as being when an individual has reflected on how
they had organized themselves and their lives and rearranged to align with
their internal voices (Baxter-Magolda, 2008, p. 280). In this element,
individuals move from thinking with their heads to thinking with their hearts.
Baxter-Magolda (2008) describes securing internal commitments as a
crossing over from understanding their internal commitments to living
them (p. 281).
With this foundation, career development can be better analyzed.
According to Creamer and Laughlin (2005),
Self-Authorship plays a role in career decision-making because it
influences how [individuals] make meaning of the advice they receive



from others; how susceptible they are to negative feedbackand the

extent to which the reasoning they employ to make a decision reflects
an internally grounded sense of self (p. 14).
With a more grounded sense of self, mothers are more capable of making a
decision that is both rational and inclusive of ones own feelings. When
individuals have fully developed self-authorship, they are better able to deal
with the cognitive acrobatics (Johnston and Swanson, 2007) and competing
opinions that pull women in various directions.
Impact on Identity
The gendered nature of society, the dialectic expectations of woman,
the risks involved with leaving career, the juggling of relationships, and the
meaning-making process all impact how a mother views her identity.
Johnston and Swanson (2007) define identity as a complex web of
interconnections that integrate self, others, and culture (p. 448). When
leaving the workforce, women are subject to a change in identity; they are
now a mother and as such they must integrate that social identity with their
identity as a career woman. Many women may feel they have to sacrifice
one of these identities to fully achieve the other.
Leaving the workforce to stay at home may be a difficult task for some
women because it does require a change in identity. Raskin (2006) found
work to be a major source of actual and perceived competence (p. 1362).
When that measure of competence is taken away, women may feel like a
part of themselves is missing, which is why they must engage in what
Johnston and Swanson (2007) call cognitive acrobatics. Johnston and
Swanson (2007) assume that some cognitive process is necessary to



construct an integrated identity that reconciles the potential contradictions

of worker identities and mothering identities (p. 449). This cognitive
process requires reframing what it means to work and be a mother.
When reframing what it means to be a worker and a mother, most
mothers try to make motherhood and career coexist within the restraints of
societal mothering expectations (Johnston and Swanson, 2007). More
specifically speaking, reframing involves resolving the tension that exists
between the two identities. Having choice in this process, Johnston and
Swanson (2007) argued increases anxiety and uncertainty and can often
create stress that is unhealthy for women and their families. Motulsky
(2014) stated, this anxiety can be expressed as confusion, self-doubt, loss
of voice, and stucknessan inability to move toward career goals (p.
This cognitive process can best be described as an internal struggle
between who one was and who one is becoming. Palladino-Schultheiss
(2009) points out that transitioning to motherhood has implications for the
rest of the mothers life. Raskin (2006) identified the key question as being
how to develop an individual career identity while satisfying social and
individual expectations about ones identity as a fairly traditional mother (p.
It is apparent that identity struggles are a key consequence of the
decision-making process to leave career for family. Women must weight
numerous factors in their process that will eventually have lifelong
implications for identity, motherhood, and career development. The focus of



this research proposal then is to 1) further explore the decision-making

process women go through to make the decision to leave career for
motherhood, and 2) explore the decision-making process impacts a mothers
identity. These foci will provide insight into the impact how decision-making
and changing identities influences a womans trajectory as a career person
and as a mother.

Chapter 3: Methods
In the present study, the population studied are mothers who left their
careers when they either 1) found out they were pregnant or 2) planned on
becoming pregnant in the near future. The goal is to have a sample of
approximately fifteen to twenty. The women in this study will be postchildbirth, with children ranging from newborns to eighteen. Women can be
any number of ages, but the preference is for them to be between the ages
of 18 and 50. Women may have returned to their careers by the time they
are interviewed for this study. For this particular study, women should be in



a partnered relationship or marriage as this greatly impacts whether or not

women are able to leave their careers when they pursue motherhood.
This population is an ideal fit for my research questions because I am
looking at the decision-making process and impact on identity. Having a
maximum on the age range helps control for the disintegration of saliency
that may occur as women become more immersed in their new identities.
Having the women closer in age to the time of their decision-making process
allows the researcher to gain the most accurate and prevalent information
regarding their lived experiences. I am particularly focusing on women in
partnered relationships because studying the lives of single parents,
specifically mothers, would need to be a larger and significantly different
Once I have my sample of 15-20 women, I will be collecting a decent
amount of descriptive information. Some of the demographics I will want to
collect include: gender, age, race, educational background, marital status,
number of children, childrens ages, career before motherhood, and current
career status. This information will give a fuller picture of where the
individual is at positionally in their life. The one piece of information that is
not directly related is race, but this information is being collected so that in
the case that there are substantial patterns that appear, this can be
accounted for, and a better case can be made for future research.
In order to recruit participants, I will first reach out to people I
personally know or know of. From here, I will reach out to continuing
education departments in the region to see if they can recommend women
who they believe would be willing to participate. I will also create flyer



advertisements and post them in daycare centers in the region. By doing

this, I should be able to get a solid base of five to eight participants who I can
then ask to recommend other women they might know who have similar
experiences. This type of sampling moves from opportunisticgathering
people I knowto snowballfinding people that others know. I will continue
to use the snowball sampling technique until I have the desired number of
fifteen to twenty participants.
The instrument that will be used to explore the research problem is
designed specifically for this study. Data collection with participants will take
place over three interviews, approximately an hour and a half long each.
The first interview is more guided by the researcher, discussing the protocol
questions specifically. The protocol questions, which can be found in
Appendix A, focus on basic questions regarding when planning for career and
motherhood began, factors that influenced their decision-making process,
and a brief beginning to how the process of leaving career and becoming a
mother impacted ones identity.
In subsequent interviews, questions will be based off of responses and
conversation that transpired in the first interview. The second interview will
be the most flexible and free flowing, but the majority of the questions will
be on identity; how or if it has changed since they became a mother, and left
career. This will be particularly important for women who left career for
motherhood, and then returned when children were older.
The third interview will take place with each participant after all first
and second interviews are conducted. The third interview has a focus on



controlling for qualitative research validity, particularly descriptive and

interpretive validity. The researcher will use the participant feedback
technique to ensure that conclusions and interpretations of participants data
are in line with what the participants believe happened. Reaching back out
to the community of participants allows the conclusions and results to be
more generalizable to greater populations of women within reason.
The first step in the process is to solicit participants. The researcher
will reach out to two to three individuals they personally know to get interest.
The researcher will reach out to three to five continuing education
departments at local colleges and universities to see if they can identify
potential participants. From here, the researcher will begin interviews with
the current group of participants. During these interviews, the researcher will
inquire as to whether these individuals have other women who may be
interested. The snowball approach to gathering participants will continue as
the first set of interviews begin.
Once a substantial group of participants, approximately ten, have been
gathered, the first interviews will occur with these women. Separate oneand-a-half-hour interviews will be set up with each participant. During the
first interview, participants will be interviewed using the protocol questions
outlined in Appendix A. Three to four weeks later the second interview will
take place. In the second interview, women will have the opportunity to
provide any further information that has been on their mind since the first
interview. This interview will primarily be focused on identity. The



researcher will generate questions for the second interview after the first
The third interview will take place after all first and second interviews
have taken place with all 15-20 participants. The third interview may be
several months after the first interview depending on how quickly
participants are solicited and interviewed. Between the second and third
interviews, data will be analyzed using a constant comparative analysis in
order to determine potential themes and steps to womens decision-making
The third interview is focused on controlling for descriptive and
interpretive validity through participant feedback. During the third interview,
the researcher will inform the participant of their discovered themes and ask
participants to discuss how they think those findings match up with their
lived experiences. This helps ensure validity because the researcher is being
careful not to publish results that are out of line with what is really going on
in womens lives. Once third interviews have taken place, the researcher will
recode the data inclusive of the third interview as well as reevaluate the
themes that may not fit with the participants lived experiences.
Demographic information collected from the participants at the
beginning of the study will be collected and represented by a chart in the
results section of the paper for reference by readers of the study. The
researcher will use constant comparative analysis to review the
transcriptions and notes from the interviews. In coding the data, the
researcher will pay the closest amount of attention to: behaviors, definition



of the situation, ways of thinking, relationships and interactions, processes,

and meanings. Meanings are particularly important because this gives a
sense of the weight participants put on events occurring in their life as it
relates to leaving career for family and thus the womens identity. The
researcher will look at the themes that emerge from coding to determine the
most common and significant pieces of womens processes and definitions of

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development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Edition). San
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Appendix A
Protocol Questions and Rationale for Interview One:
Questions Aligned with Research Q1:
When did you begin to think about
and start planning how your career
and motherhood would combine?

Who influenced your opinions on

career, motherhood, and the role of

The goal of this question is to get a
sense of how long the decisionmaking process takes and to discover
whether or not there are patterns
that emerge among the women being
interviewed. Follow up questions
might be related to: What was going
on for you at that time? (eg. Were
you in school at the time?), What was
the catalyst that began the decisionmaking process?
The goal of this question to learn
more about the key figures in female
lives in addition to how social media,
historical trends, and stereotypes
impact how women perceive
themselves and motherhood. The
hope is to identify trends that emerge


What information did you receive

about leaving career for motherhood
or vice versa?

What factors did you take into

account when deciding whether or
not to leave career once you found
out you were having a child?

Was there a pivotal moment in which you

decided you were going to leave your career to
start your family? If so, what was it and why
was it pivotal?

When it was time to actually make a

decision, how did your actions match
or differ from what you had planned?

among the women as I interview.
This question builds on the former.
The goal of this question is to gain a
deeper understanding of the
messages women are receiving,
understand how they interpret them,
and finally how that shapes their
opinions on career and motherhood.
Follow up questions may include: Do
you think you consciously absorbed
that information? Did you agree with
the messages you were receiving at
the time?
This question strives to fill in any
gaps that are left after the last two
questions are asked. The goal of this
question is to understand the
conscious factors and options women
weigh as they make the decision to
leave career for motherhood. Follow
up questions may include: Were there
certain factors that weighed more
than others? How did you know
these were the important factors to
The goal of this question is to identify
the key element that triggered a
decision to be made. This question
relates to the crisis stage in many
identity development models that
suggests there is some sort of event
that causes an immediate change in
thought or action. An important
follow up question could be: When
did this pivotal moment occur? (eg.
Before pregnancy, during pregnancy,
after birth)
The goal of this question is to get a
sense of how decisions change across
time. This is especially important if


the woman started thinking about
career and family at a young age.
This will also speak to how others
influenced the decision-making
process. This will give insight into a
key element of decision-making. I
would also be curious how her
identity shifted if she changed her
mind over the course of the lifetime.
Follow up questions would include:
How do you feel about having to
change your decision?

Questions Aligned with Research Q2/Q3:

1.) How did your career identity
impact your decision to leave
work to pursue motherhood?

Within your first year of giving birth,

how did your feelings about career
and motherhood change?

The goal of this question is to
examine how a womans career
identity and self-perception changes
over time as her social identity shifts
from career to family. This question
advances the conversation into
identity and how one tells their story.
It will be important to observe
reactions (positive, negative, or
neutral) related to how they feel
about their shift in identity. Follow up
questions may include: What
identities were salient to you before
you had a child? During? After?
The goal of this question is to elicit
reflection from the participant. At
this point, the individual has gone
through the decision-making process
and can reflect on how their feelings
about career and motherhood have
shifted over the course of their life. I
would also ask the question: Do you
think you made the right decision in


leaving your career to raise a family?
Do you wish you made a different
decision? Finally I would want to
know how these feelings impact how
they identify as women now that they
are mothers.