Understanding the realities of mothers responsible for dependent children while growing a business

  • Lyndsey Davey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The exploration of the experiences of Mothers engaged in growth entrepreneurial business venturing (EBV) was the aim of this study. It provides unique insights into the ‘tensions’, ‘choices’ and ‘trade-offs’ experienced at the work-family interface (WFI).

This qualitative research, involved a two-stage in-depth interview process, with 15 participants who were all Mothers engaged in growth EBV. An interpretivist phenomenological approach (IPA) was used to identify themes in the data. This has provided unique and intimate insights into the lived reality of a group of Northern Ireland based Mothers who were growing a business.

The extant literature, rich in research on female entrepreneurship, provided a foundation for the study. However, there was a dearth of academic study in respect of Mothers engaged in growth EBV and significant gaps were identified. Five research objectives were crafted which complemented the research aim. They addressed the fears, motivations, balance, supportive coping mechanisms and measures of success utilised by Mothers engaged in growth EBV and became topics of focus.

The extent to which fear across a range of activities pervaded the mind-set of the participants was unpacked. This study reveals the breadth of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and explored how Mothers engaged in growth EBV define balance at the WFI. The importance of identifying supportive coping mechanisms for Mothers juggling the demands of family while growing a business emerged as an imperative. This research explored and developed how Mothers viewed success while engaged in growth EBV and has resulted in new understandings.

This study contributes empirical insights into the experiences of Mothers engaged in growth EBV. Consequently, two empirically grounded models were developed, representing the cyclical process of ‘tensions’, ‘choice-making’ and ‘trade-offs’ experienced by Mothers engaged in growth EBV. Strategies for managing the dynamic at the WFI that focused on ‘achievable realities’ are provided. This research has offered a significant contribution for the consideration of policy and practice.

The specific focus of the research inevitably resulted in limitations. Therefore, future research agendas to expand knowledge and develop understanding of Mothers engaged in growth EBV are recognised. This research has shone a spotlight on issues, which if addressed, will assist future policies and good practice initiatives to be developed. An agenda to support more Mothers to engage in growth EBV and to effectively manage the ‘tensions’, ‘choices’ and ‘trade-offs’ at the WFI is an imperative
Date of Award30 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment of Education and Learning
SupervisorPauric Mc Gowan (Supervisor)


  • Work-family balance
  • Female entrepreneurship

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