Mom Guilt: Exploring the Experiences of Being a Mother and Training for and Running Marathons I: Lit Review and Methodology

Mom Guilt: Exploring the Experiences of Being a Mother and Training for and Running Marathons I: Lit Review and Methodology


Bracketing was used prior to the researcher’s involvement in the gathering of data (Flood, 2010; Matua & Van Der Wal, 2015; Tufford & Newman, 2010). Bracketing requires researchers to set aside all pre-existing knowledge and bias of the interview topic (O’Halloran et al., 2016). The purpose of letting go of assumptions was so that the researcher could pick up on nuances in the experiences of participants during interviews, instead of being clouded by pre-existing biases and judgements (Chan, Fung & Chien, 2013; Flood, 2010). Specifically, a bracketing interview was used prior to data collection to increase awareness of maladaptive interview techniques or styles and to better understand personal biases and pre-conceptions of the research topic (Chan, et al., 2013; Flood, 2010; Matua & Van Der Wal, 2015; O’Halloran et al., 2016; Tufford & Newman, 2010). Further, there is an aspect of social influence in the interpretation of someone else’s experience, which may influence the way researchers interpret participants’ experiences (Chan et al., 2013; Flood, 2010).

Following ethical approval by Adler Graduate Professional School’s Research Ethics and Integrity Board, participant recruitment took place through two avenues. As noted above, purposeful sampling was used whereby the researcher contacted managers of 15 Running Room stores in the Greater Toronto Area via email, and provided an information letter outlining the study details. The Running Room is a retail store that sells running shoes and apparel, and offers running clinics, training programs, and a free weekly run club. Interested store managers shared the information letter with runners, allowing participants to reach out to the researcher if they were interested in study participation. Posts were made in the three Facebook groups, and interested individuals commented on the post or privately messaged the researcher.

Seventeen participants were interested in the study and contacted the lead researcher via email. Interested individuals were given full details about the current study, including the purpose of the study, rights to anonymity and confidentiality, and how data was to be used. Nine participants were interested in the study but did not meet the eligibility criteria. Exclusionary factors included living in the United States (n = 1), having children who were teenagers (n = 2), or training for an event outside of the data collection time frame (n = 4). Two participants who were eligible for the study became unresponsive. Eight participants, who met the inclusion criteria, were provided a consent form, and times were scheduled for first interviews with the researcher. Participants were provided with the options of meeting in person or talking over the telephone for their interviews. All participants opted to engage in telephone interviews. Sixteen interviews were completed. There are many benefits of using telephone interviews, including minimizing barriers to participation such as time and travel limitations (Burnard, 1994; Novick, 2008). This was particularly important in this study, given that participants were required to engage in two interviews; thus, offering the option of telephone interviews was an attempt to minimize participant burden (Burnard, 1994; Jacobsson, 2012).

Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. Prior to starting the interviews, all participants provided written consent and the researcher informed them of their rights to confidentiality and anonymity. To ensure the interview guides were appropriately framed, the researcher piloted the interview guides with one participant. The individual was asked to provide feedback on the interview process and interview questions. The interview guides were then revised as necessary before they were used with the remaining research participants. (Maxwell, 2015). Participants’ second interviews were scheduled within 2 weeks of their involvement in a marathon event based on their availability.

Interviews. As noted, semi-structured interviews were used to gather data. Semi- structured interviews allowed the researcher to gather personal information about the participants’ experiences pre- and post-event (Kerson & McCoyd, 2006). Semi-structured interviews allowed the researcher the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of participants’ experiences (Kerson & McCoyd, 2006). Interviews can be an ideal way to understand pre- and post-event experiences, as they allow opportunities for participants to grow and reflect. The same researcher conducted both interviews, which ideally allowed for the establishment of trust and rapport (Kerson & McCoyd, 2006). Two interviews were scheduled with each participant: (a) one during their training, which took place prior to their scheduled marathon event, and (b) one that was 1-2 weeks after participation in the marathon event. The average number of days between each interview was 52 days. Completing interviews at two points in time allowed for exploration of personal meaning and provided an in-depth understanding of each participant’s strategies, successes, and barriers related to training, and an opportunity to reflect on their experiences (Burnard, 1994).

During the first interview (i.e., preceding the marathon event), the researcher aimed to gain insight into and understanding of the participants’ experiences of being mothers, including their multiple roles and the role and importance of running within their lives. Moreover, specific questions about their running were also included surrounding their pre-event training schedules, strategies and barriers related to training, and preparations for their goal event. The first interview started by gathering demographic information, including participant age, marital status, and occupation, and number of children and their ages. Additionally, the researcher sought information about the marathon event, including the distance and associated personal goals, previous running experience, partner’s occupation, and whether their partner was a runner. The interview guide was designed to explore their experiences of being a mother in training for a marathon event, including the strategies and barriers they experienced. Example interview guide questions included: “How has training changed for you since becoming a mother?” and, “How does training affect your family life?” The researcher asked open-ended questions to avoid “steering participants in a particular direction” (Zull, 2016, p. 2). The first interviews lasted between 62 and 118 min with participants (M = 98 min).

The second round of interviews (i.e., following the marathon event) explored the strategies and barriers that the mothers experienced during the goal event, while also offering an opportunity to reflect on their experiences. The main goal of the second interview was to explore participants’ experiences over time. Moreover, the interview also aimed to understand participants’ experiences after competing in a marathon event. Examples of questions that were used are: “Did you experience any barriers when training for your marathon event?” and, “Do you think that being a mother affected your marathon in any way? How?” and based on experiences from participating in the marathon, “Do you have any new insights as a mother?” It should be noted that one interview from the first time point interview was interrupted by children (i.e. children waking up from nap) and one of the second time point interviews was interrupted by children (i.e. spouse was unexpectedly not available for bedtime routine) and as such, a callback was required at a convenient time for the participants to continue the interview. The second interviews lasted between 27 and 72 min with participants (M = 42 min).

All interviews were recorded using a digital audio-recorder. Once the interviews were transcribed, participants were asked if they would be willing to review their transcript to ensure accurate representation of their perspectives. This process of member checking was completed with all eight participants (Mero-Jaffe, 2011). Participants were securely e-mailed a copy of both interview transcripts and provided the opportunity to review their transcripts for accuracy regarding their experiences and perspectives. A 2-week review period was set, within which participants could provide their feedback, including any questions or corrections they had to the transcripts. Only one participant requested a change, in which she asked that the name of her workplace be blinded. Once the transcripts were returned to the researcher, they were analyzed.

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