Pivoting Multiple Liminalities in Working Parenthood: Communicative Negotiations of Permanent, Transitional, and Limbo Liminalities

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liminality, work-family negotiation, pivoting, working parenthood, graduate student parents

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Drawing from the experiences of graduate students who become parents during graduate school in the United States, we argue that working parents encounter multiple liminalities, defined as “betwixt and between the original positions arrayed by law, custom, convention and ceremony” (Turner, 1977, p. 95) in their work-family negotiation. Findings revealed that graduate student parents (GSP) experienced permanent liminality when navigating parental leave policies, transitional liminality when managing work-family demands, and limbo liminality as GSPs are compared against “the ideal worker” in their everyday work. GSPs engaged in pivoting to unleash the agentic potential of their liminal positionality. Pivoting is enacted through (a) stepping into X or Y side of the liminal space to unlock oneself from the inbetweeness, (b) rotating back and forth between X and Y positions to attend to different roles, and (c) turning to an alternative space whereby the hybrid X-Y identities are embraced.

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Management Communication Quarterly, in press