Dr. Kimberly M. Hillier is a recent PhD graduate (2019) and scholar of motherhood, education, and gender. Her research explored the experiences of graduate student and faculty mothers within the Southwestern Ontario context. She is also registered and practicing Ontario Certified Teacher and a mother.
Societal norms continue to prescribe and hold mothers to a standard of unattainable perfection. Intensive mothering ideologies contribute largely to this standard of perfection and maintain essentialist notions that mothers be held primarily responsible for the performance of childcare responsibilities. This research explores the topic of maternal guilt experienced by 11 graduate student and faculty mothers in relation to the context of academia. Experiences of maternal guilt focus on three primary origins and were often the result of increased academic demands. The primary origins of guilt discussed in this article include (1) maternal absence; (2) caregiving expectations; and (3) judgments from others and self. In addition, demonstrating how conflicting norms of ‘good student’ and ‘good mother’ ideologies may result in higher levels of guilt and stress for graduate student and faculty mothers, this research also highlights the patriarchal nature of higher education. Drawing on the narratives of graduate student and faculty mothers within a Southwestern Ontario context, this research contributes to the overall discussion of maternal guilt, intensive mothering ideologies, and gender relations within higher education.