Fitting it all in: how mothers' employment shapes their school engagement

A. Haley-Lock, L. Posey-Maddox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Although incompatibilities between work and home life are well studied, less is known about the implications of employment for another key life role, particularly for working mothers: being a ‘school-engaged parent’. Using data from in-depth interviews with 17 employed mothers in a mid-size Midwestern city, recruited from a diverse sample of 95 survey-taking parents, we examined the mechanics of how mothers' employment conditions shaped their involvement in their children's schools. We observed patterns between occupational status – professional and low-wage jobs, particularly – and when and how mothers engaged. Some with job schedule flexibility and paid time off were more often and easily able to participate in school activities, while others faced barriers to or negative consequences from using such supports. Several mothers lacked any time-related accommodations from their jobs. Yet all mothers pushed themselves to be involved, even as they had to make hard calculations about their work lives to do so. The findings extend research on the ‘life’ side of work–life research and point to the limits of U.S. education reform's emphasis on family engagement, suggesting that varied bundles of employment conditions stratify parents' school participation in ways that may be difficult for schools to accommodate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-321
Number of pages20
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 26 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • maternal employment
  • occupations
  • parent school engagement
  • qualitative research
  • workplace flexibility
  • work–family conflict


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