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Adding University to work and life: The work-life balance and well-being experiences of women who combine employment, HE learning and care of the family

Smith, Joanne and Fisher, Jennifer and Ramprogus, Vince (2020) Adding University to work and life: The work-life balance and well-being experiences of women who combine employment, HE learning and care of the family. Community, Work and Family. ISSN 1366-8803 (In Press)

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Abstract

In this article, we considered women’s experiences of undertaking Higher Education (HE) study (Foundation Degree in Early Years (EY)) drawing on research based in the North of England, UK. The study, informed by a social constructionist approach, explored ten women’s experiences of work-life balance and well-being alongside Higher Education (HE) study through semi-structured interviews. A focus group explored women’s personal perceptions of work-life balance and well-being. The findings were analysed thematically and we argue that the formation of a third sphere of commitment (HE study) disrupted WLB and created some disequilibrium, which impacted upon the women’s well-being. The women underwent a transformative process as initial academic inexperience and lack of belonging in University was replaced by confidence and student identity. This transformation was made possible through personal adaptations, diverse strategies and motivation that indicated individual and collective resilience. One noticeable strategy involved the overlapping of commitment spheres, including HE study taking place at home. While being challenging to manage, this contributed to an important cultural shift as study became normal for households, creating the ‘learning family’.

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