This study responds to three gaps in the research regarding emotional labor: First, research has tended to privilege the structural forces influencing emotional labor while giving minimal attention to agency. Second, research on emotional labor has privileged work in traditional organizations, foregoing the possibility that owner-operators of small businesses (such as in-home daycare providers) experience the demands of emotional labor. Third, the emotional labor research has examined primarily short-term contexts. The current research reports the results of an interview-based study designed to explore how the participants in a long-term relational context (in-home daycare providers) communicatively manage the emotional display expectations of parents of children in their care. The themes that emerged from the data—structural strategies, interactional strategies, and individual strategies—represent communicative means that in-home daycare providers used to manage the emotional display expectations of parents. The study concludes by discussing the merit of considering the existence of and need to explore further emotional labor in nontraditional organizations such as owner-operated and in-home businesses.

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