The experiences of middle-class professional working mothers from central and Southern Cape Town with regard to work-family conflict
Women’s roles in the workplace have increased but expectations within their family roles have not diminished. Work-family conflict (WFC) occurs when work and family roles are mutually incompatible in some respect. Mothers’ representations of their own particular personal contexts seem largely absent from the cultural iconography and so motivations for the study included bringing to light the phenomenological experiences of contemporary fulltime working mothers by developing a rich description of their lived experience. These ideas have not been widely explored in South Africa. The study aimed to explore how full-time working mothers experience work-family conflict, including how they conceptualise their dual roles, how salient each role is to them, the factors in the work and family domains which are particularly pertinent for them and any coping strategies they might employ. The study used as a theoretical framework the model of work-family conflict developed by Greenhaus and Beutell in 1985, together with an extension from the work of Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering and Semmer in 2011. The study used a phenomenological methodology. Eight middle-class, professional, full-time working mothers from the Southern Suburbs and City Bowl of Cape Town were interviewed individually, using a semi-structured interview schedule. A qualitative paradigm was used to analyse the interviews. Emotional and cognitive repercussions of WFC were many, including feelings of unsustainability. Some participants acknowledged a need to compromise in order to cope, but the current normative messages are not conducive to this. Participants aspire, not to stop working, because the role of worker is regarded as important for self-definition, but to reduce their overall load. The generalisability of this study was reduced because of its localised ambit, its small size and some similarities in socio-economic profile among the participants. Future studies could further explore the choices or strategies which are successful in reducing WFC.