Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Education

First Advisor

Miller, Kim


More women than ever before are entering the halls of higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), more women than men are obtaining bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees (U.S. Department of Education, 2011a) According to Home (1998), at the end of the 20th century, women with families were the fastest growing population at the university level. At the beginning of the 20th century, students over the age of 25 were the fastest growing population in higher education (Carney-Crompton & Tan, 2002). These statistics beg the question, Why do women return to school? What are their challenges? What are their stories? More importantly, how do they do it all? How do they balance the demands of home and school and, most often, employment as well? My research examined the tensions women face going to school, specifically women who have children at home, commonly referred to as nontraditional age students. I was interested in the competitive demands of balancing two challenging roles, that of student and mother. Additionally, I wanted to know how these two roles affected their health and self-care. I designed a qualitative study to explore life as a graduate student mother. I specifically sought to learn about strategies of balancing the challenges as well as how, or if, schooling affected their health and self-care. Using the Roy Adaptation Model, I searched for ways in which women balance their multiple roles. With this research, I aim to help these women in their efforts to be successful in school and in life. I utilized both individual interviews and a focus group. Themes for interviews included I'm a Mother first, I'm the Captain of the Ship, "We got there together," the Adventure is Stressful, Finding Joy in the Journey, Attitude Determines Altitude, and Letting Go. Additionally, two overarching themes surfaced from the focus group: 1. Stress is Ubiquitous and 2. Identity Crisis. From this study, health educators can begin to understand how graduate school mothers experience graduate school, thus obtain a greater ability to develop and implement strategies to help this population.




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