Care Work and Academic Motherhood: Challenges for Research and Tenure in the Canadian University

Academic Abstract:
This qualitative research project explored how women faculty experience work and motherhood in Canadian academia. A feminist thematic analysis of twenty interviews with academic mothers reveals the range of challenges that mothers encounter. Three semi-chronological yet intertwined themes related to academic motherhood were identified. First, the “fear of post-partum academic erasure,” emerged early in academic motherhood, capturing faculty mothers’ experiences of feeling compelled to assert their physical and intellectual presence in the post-partum period, particularly during a maternity leave. The second theme, “the mommy tenure track,” encapsulated faculty mothers’ experiences of feeling unsupported by the university in their pursuit of promotion and tenure given care responsibilities associated with motherhood. The final theme, “research while caring” captures the tensions academic mothers experience between the research process and caring and subsequently, in response to said tensions, how they may pivot research priorities, programs, and objectives after becoming academic mothers. Implications of the findings are discussed with particular emphasis on future research opportunities in post-pandemic academia.

Keywords: Academic motherhood, Care work, Tenure track, Discrimination, Family care

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