Trapped Between the Expectations of Others and Self and the Search for Balance and Freedom

  • Brenda M. StoeszEmail author


My story begins in rural Manitoba rooted in a particular subdenomination of Mennonite cultural and religious customs and agricultural history, where conventional gender roles, a strong work ethic, self-reliance, and religion were valued. In this tradition, I learned the knowledge and skills required to run a household, care for children, and serve my elders at an early age. Family circumstances required me to learn additional skills traditionally reserved for boys and men. As I reflect on my past, I understand how early experiences led me to resist many aspects of the traditional family life that I was expected to assume and propelled me to further my education despite the obstacles that a rural upbringing often present. Using autoethnography, I explore how life experiences and perspectives have influenced my decision-making processes, shaped my professional path, and connect me to the wider cultural and social context, particularly with regards to traditional gender roles within the Mennonite culture. By engaging in this reflective exercise, a very difficult undertaking that often left me feeling vulnerable, my hope is that it will offer another perspective that may deepen the understanding of how cultural customs and beliefs influence how women negotiate life in the academy.


Autoethnography Career barriers Determination Life balance Mennonite culture 



Thank you to Piper, Kiera, and Keith for your joy, humour, and understanding. Thanks to my siblings, Matt, Steve, and Jennifer, for your love and support. Special thanks to my dear friends, Wanda Snow and Janine Newton Montgomery, for providing feedback on early and final versions of this chapter, respectively. A heartfelt thanks to my mentors and friends, Drs. Lorna Jakobson, Janine Newton Montgomery, and Shahin Shooshtari for showing me the ropes. All of you mean so very much to me and without your support and encouragement, I just couldn’t have done any of it.

This chapter is dedicated to my Dad. I miss you every day!


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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