The purpose of this research project was to explore the experiences of mature women students in juggling the multiplicity of roles they faced during the adulthood stage of life. The lack of literature, particularly on the African woman’s experiences of being a student while also dealing with the roles of being a mother, wife and employee, inspired this research. I explored the women’s experiences using a qualitative approach and semi-structured individual interviews, and did a thematic analysis of the textual data. The average age of the women who participated in this project was 36.8, and except for two of the 10 interviewees, all women were enrolled for a postgraduate studies. The majority of women enrolled for further studies because they wanted to increase their opportunities in the work environment, while one woman did so because of a career change. The stories of the ten mature women students that I interviewed revealed five major themes. In describing their experiences of juggling multiple roles, the mature women students mentioned that they studied while also maintaining a job because of the financial obligations and the lifestyle of their age group. They experienced role strain from the many roles that required an equal share of their time, but managed to cope because they had personal goals to achieve and would not relinquish those. Both congruent and incongruent experiences emerged between work and study, particularly when they could not attribute equal time to work and study. Although they were encouraged and supported by their partners and children, and sometimes also their families and the community, they still had to deal with the lack of support from the institutions where they were enrolled. Extreme tiredness and guilt because of conflicting role demands were found to be most common among all ten women. For the most part the women had to deal with an increase in their role responsibilities and experienced different emotions regarding the influence of studying on family life. By managing their time well they were able to cope and had thus far been successful in balancing their different roles. Above all the mature women student were able to cope with the multiplicity of roles because they had determination, were focused and committed, and wanted to achieve success in their educational goals. Perseverance and dedication to their goals emerged as mature women students’ most powerful tool for coping with multiple roles.
Dissertation (MA (Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2008.