High-Achieving Mothers and the Choices They Make

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jessica C. Kimmel


Esmeralda De Los Santos


Sharon Herbers


Dorothy Ettling


This research explored the perceptions of selected women about personal high achievement outside of the home and how this may influence the role of nurturer to their family. This study sought to examine the lived experiences of seven women who are homemakers as well as career women on the impact of modern, American culture on the decisions they make. An investigation into how motherhood, gender, career, and family roles impact life decisions and roles was made. How these decisions impacted personal identity, satisfaction, and stress were revealed through personal stories and insight from the participants. The framework for this study was based primarily on two ideas, the psychological contract theory (Smithson & Lewis, 2004), which describes the unspoken expectations that exist between people and the capabilities approach theory (Nussbaum, 2000), which states that everyone is capable of living up to a certain potential, which not only contributes to personal growth, but also to society as a whole. Increased understanding into how some women manage a home, a family, and their career, within these theoretical frameworks, was uncovered. For this study, grounded theory was chosen as the method to guide the study of these women. Grounded theory is "the study of experience from the standpoint of those who live it, the investigator is the primary instrument and the mode of inquiry is inductive" (Merriam, 2002, p. 142). The basic analysis procedure used was the constant comparative method of data analysis. Data deemed meaningful were gathered and compared with each other in order to generate categories that emerged from the data. This qualitative research study was done using a sample of seven mothers who were both high achievers outside of the home and, yet, still responsible for the nurturing needs of their families and the upkeep of their homes. The analysis focuses on the themes that emerged from these interviews. They were (a) emergence of self, (b) the driving force, (c) voice, and (d) life satisfaction. The researcher offers conclusions, recommendations, and ideas for future research.

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