Communication ETDs


Qingjing Xu

Publication Date



Studies of work-life balance and intercultural adaptation have addressed the effect of work-life conflict for working adults and the psychological and sociocultural adaptation of immigrants. However, rarely does this research explore how working adults, especially women, develop solutions to those work-life tensions. Previous literature is typically silent about how international women struggle with acclimating to a different national culture while also working or going to school and parenting children. Thus, this study aims to explore the unique challenges international working mothers face as they work and live in the United States and the communicative strategies and solutions they adopt in coping with the tensions. I conducted 17 in-depth interviews with women from 10 nationalities, and the interviews resulted in over 230 single-spaced pages of transcribed data. Using David Bojes (2001) antenarrative analysis method, I analyze the data in two phases. In the first phase, I tell individual stories in the format of vignettes, a polyphonic approach. In the second phase, I summarize the similar challenges faced and solutions adopted by some women, and I list the differences at micro, meso, and macro levels. Findings reveal that international working mothers encounter unique challenges in their studies, in the workplace, in building relationships, in childcare, and in managing intimate relationships. These challenges arise from language barriers, new work and academic environments, lack of extended family support, different cultural norms, visa limitations, and gender ideology. Solutions, while limited, arise from their family members' support, their advisors' encouragement, and their own resilient personalities. The micro-meso-macro framework helps to highlight the contextual influences of meso and macro forces on the women's daily lives and struggles. Findings confirm and extend existing literature on work-life conflict and intercultural adaptation. Findings provide theoretical implications on work-life conflict (Clark, 2000) and adaptation theories (Kim, 2005), as well as provide practical implications on government visa policies and university practices. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.




work-life balance, intercultural adaptation, international working mothers, antenarrative analysis

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Lutgen-Sandvik, Pamela

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schuetz, Janice

Second Committee Member

Oetzel, John