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Competing Demands in Times of Crisis: The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Lives of Graduate Student Mothers

  • Author / Creator
    DeKeseredy, Andrea
  • This thesis explores how the lives of graduate student mothers at the University of Alberta changed during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Using a qualitative descriptive approach, I interviewed 19 graduate student mothers from various programs using a maximum variation strategy to recruit participants from a diverse set of backgrounds. A critical, reflexive thematic analysis revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a loss of control in graduate student mothers' lives due to a decrease in childcare and new ways of responding to common illness. Institutional decisions from the government and the university influenced the loss of control through negatively perceived government policy and the simultaneous restructuring of the University of Alberta, exacerbating relational inequality and reinforcing inequality regimes. Predictability and planning are needed to balance the competing role of mother and student, and the loss of control from the pandemic resulted in mothers having to readjust their academic goals and extend the amount of time needed to complete their degrees. The forced readjustment of mothers’ goals was shaped through an organizational context which constrained the options available to them and increased their difficulty in accessing organizational resources. For some participants the shift to online learning was a benefit, allowing them to reduce their work-family-conflict. The findings of this thesis inform a definition of the “ideal graduate student”, someone who can meet the requirements of graduate work in a neoliberalized university with dwindling resources. Finally, this thesis puts forward suggestions that would resist inequality regimes in the academy and assist graduate student mothers in achieving their academic goals. The findings are useful to policymakers and activists working towards gender equity in academia and other institutions that share similar organizational patterns.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts/Master of Library and Information Studies
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-1fr9-8f23
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.