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There is an extensive body of literature describing work-life conflict/balance, however the role of culture tends to be ignored, and the literature almost exclusively focuses on a Western understanding of the issue. In an ethnographic study with 21 Iranian women as well as 11 key informants about emotional wellbeing of Iranian immigrant women in Australia, we focused on how post-migration challenges prevent or reduce labour participation of skilled immigrant women. Despite tertiary education, previous work experiences and reasonable English proficiency, the majority of our participants were unemployed or worked as part-time employees in Australia. Iranian women with small children experienced constrains in achieving a work-life balance. Conflicts often arose when women failed to negotiate their own understanding of ‘good’ motherhood in the Australian context. In selecting employment or being a housewife, Iranian women often choose the latter due to their definition of a ‘good’ mother as a person who is willing to sacrifice herself for the wellbeing of the children. Therefore, they are less likely to use formal childcare or apply for jobs that demand long hours. One strategy women used was to be employed in part- time jobs which was similar with decisions made by women in the broader Australian community. One of the common strategies that Iranian women employ was to start working when their children start to go to school. Women felt ambivalent towards this decision; some were happy and thought they were good mothers, others feared that due to a lack of support they had lost years of job development, experience and climbing the career ladder.

In: The Value of Work in Contemporary Society

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