Despite the increase in the number of non-traditional students, there seem to be limited research in the area of adult women learners, especially mothers, who engaged in studies in the South African context. This study aimed to obtain insight into the effect a mother’s studying has on family life. The researcher was keen to explore how a particular mother juggled multiple roles of mother, wife and student while engaged in academic studies. To delimit this research, work dynamics were not investigated and the focus was specifically on mothers who engaged in coursework where lectures may or may not be attended either part-time or full-time. This qualitative study employed a single case study design where a single family was purposively selected (n=4) and all ethical considerations of working with human participants, including children, in research were observed. The purpose of this study was clearly explained and the researcher obtained informed consent and assent before any data collection commenced. Semi-structured interviews were utilised as a data-collection technique. Data was transcribed from the recordings and from the data analysis the main themes which emerged were the family’s experience on the mother’s studying, the influence of studying on family relationships, roles within the family and forms of support experienced.
The findings show that the mother’s studies affected family life due to the difficulty with integrating the multiple roles of student, spouse and mother. Despite the financial and relationship challenges, this study found that the mother enjoyed the support of her family, specifically her husband, and this seemed to enable her to pursue academic studies.