The excerpts are from Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy.

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BA RBA RA E H REN REIC H A ND A RLIE R USSE LL H O CH SC H IL D

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“ W ho se b ab y a re y o u?” J o se p hin e P ere ra , a n anny f r o m S ri L anka, a sk s I s a d ora , h er p ud gy tw o-y ear-o ld

c harg e i n A th ens, G re ece.

Tho ughtf u l fo r a m om ent, th e c hild g la nces to w ard th e c lo se d d oor o f th e n ext ro om , in w hic h h er

m oth er i s w ork in g, a s i f to s a y, “ T hat’ s m y m oth er i n th ere .”

“N o, y o u’re

my

b ab y,” Jo se p hin e te ase s, ti c klin g Is a d ora lig htl y . T hen, to se ttl e th e is su e, Is a d ora

a nsw ers , “ T ogeth er!” S he h as tw o m om mie s— her m oth er a nd J o se p hin e. A nd s u re ly a c hild lo ved b y

m any a d ults i s r ic hly b le sse d .

In s o m e w ays, J o se p hin e’s s to ry — whic h u nfo ld s in a n e xtr a o rd in ary d ocum enta ry film ,

When M oth er

C om es H om e fo r C hris tm as,

d ir e cte d b y N ilita V achani— desc rib es a n u np ara lle le d s u ccess. J o se p hin e

h as v entu re d a ro und th e w orld , a chie v in g a d egre e o f i n d ep end ence h er m oth er c o uld n o t h av e i m agin ed ,

a nd a m ply s u p porti n g h er th re e c hild re n w ith n o h elp fr o m h er e x-h usb and , th eir fa th er. E ach m onth s h e

m ails a re m itta nce c heck fr o m A th ens to H atto n, S ri L anka, to p ay th e c hild re n’s liv in g e xp ense s a nd

s c ho ol fe es. O n h er C hris tm as v is it h o m e, s h e b ears g ifts o f p ots , p ans, a nd d is h es. W hile s h e m akes

p aym ents o n a n ew b us th at S ure sh , h er o ld est s o n, n o w

driv es f o r a l iv in g, s h e i s a ls o s a v in g f o r a m odest

d ow ry f o r h er d aughte r, N orm a. S he d re am s o f b uyin g a n ew h o use i n w hic h th e w ho le f a m ily c an l iv e. I n

t h e m eanti m e, h er w ork a s a n anny e nab le s Is a d ora ’s p are nts to d ev ote th em se lv es to th eir c are ers a nd

a v ocati o ns.

But J o se p hin e’s s to ry i s a ls o o ne o f w re nchin g g lo bal i n eq uality . W hile I s a d ora e njo ys th e a tte nti o n o f

t h re e a d ults , Jo se p hin e’s th re e c hild re n in S ri L anka h av e b een fa r le ss lu cky. A cco rd in g to V achani,

J o se p hin e’s y o ungest c hild , S um in d a, w as tw o— Is a d ora ’s a ge— when h is m oth er fir s t le ft h o m e to w ork

i n S aud i A ra b ia . H er m id dle c hild , N orm a, w as n in e; h er o ld est s o n, S ure sh , th ir te en. F ro m S aud i A ra b ia ,

J o se p hin e fo und h er w ay fir s t to K uw ait, th en to G re ece. E xcep t fo r o ne tw o-m onth tr ip h o m e, s h e h as

l iv ed a p art fr o m h er c hild re n fo r te n y ears . S he w rite s th em w eekly le tte rs , s e ekin g n ew s o f re la ti v es,

a sk in g a b out s c ho ol, a nd c o m pla in in g th at N orm a d oesn ’t w rite b ack.

Alth o ugh J o se p hin e l e ft th e c hild re n u nd er h er s is te r’s s u p erv is io n, th e tw o y o ungest h av e s h o w n s ig ns

o f r e al d is tr e ss. N orm a h as a tte m pte d s u ic id e th re e ti m es. S um in d a, w ho w as tw elv e w hen th e film w as

m ad e, b oard s in a g rim , D ic kensia n o rp hanage th at fo rb id s ta lk d urin g m eals a nd s h o w ers . H e v is its h is

a unt o n h o lid ays. A lth o ugh th e o ld est, S ure sh , s e em s to b e o n g o od te rm s w ith h is m oth er, N orm a i s te arfu l

a nd s u lle n, a nd S um in d a d oes p oorly i n s c ho ol, p ic ks q uarre ls , a nd o th erw is e s e em s w ith d ra w n f r o m th e

w orld . S ti ll, a t th e e nd o f th e film , w e s e e J o se p hin e o nce a gain le av e h er th re e c hild re n in S ri L anka to

r e tu rn to I s a d ora i n A th ens. F or J o se p hin e c an e ith er l iv e w ith h er c hild re n i n d esp era te p overty o r m ake

m oney b y l iv in g a p art f r o m th em . U nlik e h er a fflu ent F ir s t W orld e m plo yers , s h e c anno t b oth l iv e w ith h er

f a m ily a nd s u p port i t.

Thanks to th e p ro cess w e lo ose ly c all “ glo baliz a ti o n,” w om en a re o n th e m ove a s n ev er b efo re in his to ry . In im ages fa m ilia r to th e W est fr o m te le v is io n c o m merc ia ls fo r c re d it c ard s, c ell p ho nes, a nd

air lin es, f e m ale e xecuti v es j e t a b out th e w orld , p ho nin g h o m e f r o m l u xury h o te ls a nd r e uniti n g w ith e ager

child re n i n a ir p orts . B ut w e h ear m uch l e ss a b out a f a r m ore p ro dig io us f lo w o f f e m ale l a b or a nd e nerg y:

th e in cre asin g m ig ra ti o n o f m illio ns o f w om en fr o m p oor c o untr ie s to ric h o nes, w here th ey se rv e a s

nannie s, m aid s, a nd s o m eti m es s e x w ork ers . I n th e a b se nce o f h elp f r o m m ale p artn ers , m any w om en h av e

su cceed ed i n to ugh “ m ale w orld ” c are ers o nly b y tu rn in g o ver th e c are o f th eir c hild re n, e ld erly p are nts ,

and h o m es to w om en fr o m th e

Thir d W orld . T his is th e fe m ale und ers id e o f glo baliz a ti o n, w here b y

millio ns o f J o se p hin es f r o m p oor c o untr ie s i n th e s o uth m ig ra te to d o th e “ w om en’s w ork ” o f th e n o rth —

work th at a fflu ent w om en a re n o lo nger a b le o r w illin g to d o. T hese m ig ra nt w ork ers o fte n le av e th eir

ow n c hild re n in th e c are o f g ra nd m oth ers , sis te rs , a nd sis te rs -in -la w . S om eti m es a y o ung d aughte r is

dra w n o ut o f s c ho ol to c are f o r h er y o unger s ib lin gs.

This p atte rn o f f e m ale m ig ra ti o n r e fle cts w hat c o uld b e c alle d a w orld w id e g end er r e v olu ti o n. I n b oth

ric h a nd p oor c o untr ie s, fe w er fa m ilie s c an r e ly s o le ly o n a m ale b re ad w in ner. In th e U nite d S ta te s, th e

earn in g p ow er o f m ost m en h as d eclin ed s in ce 1 970, a nd m any w om en h av e g o ne o ut to “ m ake u p th e

diffe re nce.” B y o ne r e cent e sti m ate , w om en w ere th e s o le , p rim ary , o r c o eq ual e arn ers in m ore th an h alf

of A meric an fa m ilie s.

1

S o th e q uesti o n a ris e s: W ho w ill ta ke c are o f th e c hild re n, th e s ic k, th e e ld erly ?

Who w ill m ake d in ner a nd c le an h o use ?

While th e E uro pean o r A meric an w om an c o m mute s to w ork a n a v era ge tw enty -e ig ht m in ute s a d ay,

many n annie s f r o m th e P hilip pin es, S ri L anka, a nd I n d ia c ro ss th e g lo be to g et to th eir j o bs. S om e f e m ale

mig ra nts fr o m th e T hir d W orld d o fin d so m eth in g lik e “ lib era ti o n,” o r a t le ast th e c hance to b eco m e

in d ep end ent b re ad w in ners a nd to im pro ve th eir c hild re n’s m ate ria l liv es. O th er, le ss fo rtu nate m ig ra nt

wom en e nd u p i n th e c o ntr o l o f c rim in al e m plo yers — th eir p assp orts s to le n, th eir m obility b lo cked , f o rc ed

to w ork w ith o ut p ay i n b ro th els o r to p ro vid e s e x a lo ng w ith c le anin g a nd c hild -c are s e rv ic es i n a fflu ent

ho m es. B ut e v en i n m ore ty p ic al c ase s, w here b enig n e m plo yers p ay w ages o n ti m e, T hir d W orld m ig ra nt

wom en a chie v e th eir s u ccess o nly b y a ssu m in g th e c ast- o ff d om esti c ro le s o f m id dle – a nd h ig h-in co m e

wom en in th e F ir s t W orld — ro le s th at hav e b een p re v io usly re je cte d , o f co urs e , b y m en. A nd th eir

“co m mute ” e nta ils a c o st w e h av e y et to f u lly c o m pre hend .

The m ig ra ti o n o f w om en fr o m th e T hir d W orld to d o “ w om en’s w ork ” in a fflu ent c o untr ie s h as s o fa r

re ceiv ed l ittl e m ed ia a tte nti o n— fo r r e aso ns th at a re e asy e no ugh to g uess. F ir s t, m any, th o ugh b y n o m eans

all, of th e new fe m ale m ig ra nt w ork ers are w om en of co lo r, and th ere fo re su b je ct to th e ra cia l

“d is c o unti n g” ro uti n ely e xp erie nced b y, sa y, A lg eria ns in F ra nce, M exic ans in th e U nite d S ta te s, a nd

Asia ns i n th e U nite d K in gd om . A dd to r a cis m th e p riv ate “ in d oor” n atu re o f s o m uch o f th e n ew m ig ra nts ’

work . U nlik e fa cto ry w ork ers , w ho c o ngre gate in la rg e n um bers , o r ta xi d riv ers ,

who a re v is ib le o n th e

str e et, n annie s a nd m aid s a re o fte n h id den a w ay, o ne o r tw o a t a ti m e, b ehin d c lo se d d oors in p riv ate

ho m es. B ecause o f th e ille gal n atu re o f th eir w ork , m ost s e x w ork ers a re e v en fu rth er c o nceale d fr o m

pub lic v ie w .

At le ast in th e c ase o f n annie s a nd m aid s, a no th er fa cto r c o ntr ib ute s to th e in v is ib ility o f m ig ra nt

wom en a nd th eir w ork — one th at, fo r th eir a fflu ent e m plo yers , to uches c lo se r to h o m e. T he W este rn

cultu re of in d iv id ualis m , w hic h fin d s extr e m e exp re ssio n in th e U nite d Sta te s, m ilita te s again st

ackno w le d gin g h elp o r h um an i n te rd ep end ency o f n early a ny k in d . T hus, i n th e ti m e-p re sse d u p per m id dle

cla ss, s e rv ants a re n o l o nger d is p la yed a s s ta tu s s y m bols , d ecked o ut i n w hite c ap s a nd a p ro ns, b ut o fte n

re m ain in th e backgro und , or dis a p pear w hen co m pany co m es. F urth erm ore , afflu ent care erw om en

in cre asin gly e arn th eir sta tu s n o t th ro ugh le is u re , a s th ey m ig ht h av e a c entu ry a go , b ut b y a p pare ntl y

“d oin g it a ll” — pro ducin g a fu ll- ti m e c are er, th riv in g c hild re n, a c o nte nte d s p ouse , a nd a w ell- m anaged

ho m e. I n o rd er to p re se rv e th is i llu sio n, d om esti c w ork ers a nd n annie s m ake th e h o use h o te l- ro om p erfe ct,

fe ed a nd b ath e th e c hild re n, c o ok a nd c le an u p — and th en m agic ally f a d e f r o m s ig ht.

The l ife sty le s o f th e F ir s t W orld a re m ad e p ossib le b y a g lo bal tr a nsfe r o f th e s e rv ic es a sso cia te d w ith a w ife ’s tr a d iti o nal ro le — child care , ho m em akin g, and se x— fr o m poor co untr ie s to ric h ones. T o

genera liz e a nd p erh ap s o vers im plify : in a n e arlie r p hase o f im peria lis m , n o rth ern c o untr ie s e xtr a cte d

natu ra l re so urc es a nd a gric ultu ra l p ro ducts — ru b ber, m eta ls , a nd su gar, fo r e xam ple — fr o m la nd s th ey

co nq uere d and co lo niz e d . T oday, w hile sti ll re ly in g on T hir d W orld co untr ie s fo r agric ultu ra l and

in d ustr ia l la b or, th e w ealth y c o untr ie s a ls o se ek to e xtr a ct so m eth in g h ard er to m easu re a nd q uanti fy ,

so m eth in g th at c an l o ok v ery m uch l ik e l o ve. N annie s l ik e J o se p hin e b rin g th e d is ta nt f a m ilie s th at e m plo y

th em r e al m ate rn al a ffe cti o n, n o d oub t e nhanced b y th e h eartb re akin g a b se nce o f th eir o w n c hild re n i n th e

poor c o untr ie s th ey le av e b ehin d . S im ila rly , w om en w ho m ig ra te fr o m c o untr y to c o untr y to w ork a s

maid s b rin g n o t o nly th eir m usc le p ow er b ut a n a tte nti v eness to d eta il a nd to th e h um an r e la ti o nsh ip s in

th e ho use ho ld th at m ig ht o th erw is e hav e b een in v este d in th eir o w n fa m ilie s. S ex w ork ers o ffe r th e

sim ula ti o n o f s e xual a nd r o m anti c lo ve, o r a t le ast tr a nsie nt s e xual c o m panio nsh ip . It is a s if th e w ealth y

parts o f th e w orld a re r u nnin g s h o rt o n

pre cio us e m oti o nal a nd s e xual r e so urc es a nd h av e h ad to tu rn to

poore r r e gio ns f o r f r e sh s u p plie s.

There a re p le nty o f h is to ric al p re ced ents fo r th is g lo baliz a ti o n o f tr a d iti o nal fe m ale s e rv ic es. In th e

ancie nt M id dle E ast, th e w om en o f p opula ti o ns d efe ate d i n w ar w ere r o uti n ely e nsla v ed a nd h aule d o ff to

se rv e a s h o use ho ld w ork ers a nd c o ncub in es f o r th e v ic to rs . A mong th e A fr ic ans b ro ught to N orth A meric a

as s la v es in th e s ix te enth th ro ugh n in ete enth c entu rie s, a b out a th ir d w ere w om en a nd c hild re n, a nd m any

of th o se w om en w ere pre sse d to be co ncub in es, dom esti c se rv ants , or both . N in ete enth -c entu ry

Ir is h w om en— alo ng w ith m any ru ra l E nglis h w om en— mig ra te d to E nglis h to w ns a nd c iti e s to w ork a s

dom esti c s in th e h o m es o f th e g ro w in g u p per m id dle c la ss. S erv ic es th o ught to b e in nate ly fe m in in e—

child care , ho use w ork , and se x— ofte n w in littl e re co gniti o n or pay. B ut th ey hav e alw ays been

su ffic ie ntl y in d em and to tr a nsp ort o ver lo ng d is ta nces if n ecessa ry . W hat is n ew to day is th e sh eer

num ber o f fe m ale m ig ra nts a nd th e v ery lo ng d is ta nces th ey tr a v el. Im mig ra ti o n sta ti s ti c s sh o w h uge

num bers o f w om en i n m oti o n, ty p ic ally f r o m p oor c o untr ie s to r ic h. A lth o ugh th e g ro ss s ta ti s ti c s g iv e l ittl e

clu e a s to th e jo bs w om en e v entu ally ta ke, th ere a re r e aso ns to in fe r th at m uch o f th eir w ork is “ carin g

work ,” p erfo rm ed e ith er in p riv ate h o m es o r in in sti tu ti o nal s e tti n gs s u ch a s h o sp ita ls , h o sp ic es, c hild –

care c ente rs , a nd n urs in g h o m es.

The s ta ti s ti c s a re , in m any w ays, fr u str a ti n g. W e h av e in fo rm ati o n o n le gal m ig ra nts b ut n o t o n ille gal

mig ra nts , w ho , e xp erts te ll u s, tr a v el in e q ual if n o t g re ate r n um bers . F urth erm ore , m any T hir d W orld

co untr ie s la ck d ata fo r p ast y ears , w hic h m akes it h ard to tr a ce tr e nd s o ver ti m e; o r th ey u se v ary in g

meth o ds o f g ath erin g i n fo rm ati o n, w hic h m akes i t h ard to c o m pare o ne c o untr y w ith a no th er. N ev erth ele ss,

th e tr e nd is c le ar e no ugh fo r s o m e s c ho la rs , in clu d in g S te p hen C astl e s, M ark M ille r, a nd J a net M om se n,

to s p eak o f a “ fe m in iz a ti o n o f m ig ra ti o n.”

2

F ro m 1 950 to 1 970, fo r e xam ple , m en p re d om in ate d in la b or

mig ra ti o n to no rth ern E uro pe fr o m T urk ey, G re ece, and N orth A fr ic a. S in ce th en, w om en hav e b een

re p la cin g m en. In 1 946, w om en w ere fe w er th an 3 p erc ent o f th e A lg eria ns a nd M oro ccans liv in g in

Fra nce; b y 1 990, th ey w ere m ore th an 4 0 p erc ent.

3

O vera ll, h alf o f th e w orld ’s 1 20 m illio n le gal a nd

ille gal m ig ra nts a re n o w b elie v ed to b e w om en.

Patte rn s o f in te rn ati o nal m ig ra ti o n v ary fr o m re gio n to re gio n, b ut

wom en m ig ra nts fr o m a s u rp ris in g

num ber o f s e nd in g c o untr ie s a ctu ally o utn um ber m en, s o m eti m es b y a w id e m arg in . F or e xam ple , in th e

1990s, w om en m ake u p o ver h alf o f F ilip in o m ig ra nts to a ll c o untr ie s a nd 8 4 p erc ent o f S ri L ankan

mig ra nts to th e M id dle E ast.

4

In d eed , b y 1 993 sta ti s ti c s, S ri L ankan w om en su ch a s Jo se p hin e v astl y

outn um bere d S ri L ankan m en a s m ig ra nt w ork ers w ho ’d le ft fo r S aud i A ra b ia , K uw ait, L eb ano n, O man,

Bahra in , J o rd an, a nd Q ata r, a s w ell a s to a ll c o untr ie s o f th e F ar E ast, A fr ic a, a nd A sia .

5

A bout h alf o f th e

mig ra nts le av in g M exic o , In d ia , K ore a, M ala ysia , C yp ru s, a nd S w azila nd to w ork e ls e w here a re a ls o

wom en. T hro ugho ut th e 1 990s w om en o utn um bere d m en a m ong m ig ra nts to th e U nite d S ta te s, C anad a,

Sw ed en, th e U nite d K in gd om , A rg enti n a, a nd I s ra el.

6 Most w om en, lik e m en, m ig ra te fr o m th e so uth to th e n o rth a nd fr o m p oor c o untr ie s to ric h o nes.

Typ ic ally , m ig ra nts g o to th e n eare st c o m para ti v ely ric h c o untr y , p re fe ra b ly o ne w ho se la nguage th ey

sp eak o r w ho se re lig io n a nd c ultu re th ey s h are . T here a re a ls o lo cal m ig ra to ry flo w s: fr o m n o rth ern to

so uth ern T haila nd , fo r in sta nce, o r fr o m E ast G erm any to W est. B ut o f th e re gio nal o r c ro ss-re gio nal

flo w s, fo ur sta nd out. O ne go es fr o m South east A sia to th e oil- ric h M id dle and Far E ast— fr o m

Bangla d esh , In d onesia , th e P hilip pin es, a nd S ri L anka to B ahra in , O man, K uw ait, S aud i A ra b ia , H ong

Kong, M ala ysia , a nd S in gap ore . A no th er s tr e am o f m ig ra ti o n g o es f r o m th e f o rm er S ovie t b lo c to w este rn

Euro pe— fr o m R ussia , R om ania , B ulg aria , and A lb ania to Scand in av ia , G erm any, Fra nce, Spain ,

Portu gal, a nd E ngla nd . A th ir d g o es f r o m s o uth to n o rth i n th e A meric as, i n clu d in g th e s tr e am f r o m M exic o

to th e U nite d S ta te s, w hic h sc ho la rs sa y is th e lo ngest- ru nnin g la b or m ig ra ti o n in th e w orld . A fo urth

str e am m oves fr o m A fr ic a to v ario us p arts o f E uro pe. F ra nce re ceiv es m any fe m ale m ig ra nts fr o m

Moro cco , T unis ia , a nd A lg eria . I ta ly r e ceiv es f e m ale w ork ers f r o m E th io pia , E ritr e a, a nd C ap e V erd e.

Fem ale m ig ra nts o verw helm in gly ta ke u p w ork a s m aid s o r d om esti c s. A s w om en h av e b eco m e a n e v er

gre ate r p ro porti o n o f m ig ra nt w ork ers , re ceiv in g co untr ie s re fle ct a d ra m ati c in flu x o f fo re ig n-b orn

dom esti c s. I n th e U nite d S ta te s, A fr ic an-A meric an w om en, w ho a cco unte d f o r 6 0 p erc ent o f d om esti c s i n

th e 1 940s, h av e b een l a rg ely r e p la ced b y L ati n as, m any o f th em r e cent m ig ra nts f r o m M exic o a nd C entr a l

Americ a. I n E ngla nd , A sia n m ig ra nt w om en h av e d is p la ced th e I r is h a nd P ortu guese d om esti c s o f th e

past.

In F re nch c iti e s, N orth A fr ic an w om en h av e r e p la ced r u ra l F re nch g ir ls . In w este rn G erm any, T urk s a nd

wom en fr o m th e fo rm er E ast G erm any h av e re p la ced ru ra l n ati v e-b orn w om en. F ore ig n fe m ale s fr o m

co untr ie s o uts id e th e E uro pean U nio n m ad e u p o nly 6 p erc ent o f a ll d om esti c w ork ers i n 1 984. B y 1 987,

th e p erc enta ge h ad j u m ped to 5 2, w ith m ost c o m in g f r o m th e P hilip pin es, S ri L anka, T haila nd , A rg enti n a,

Colo m bia , B ra zil, E l S alv ad or, a nd P eru .

7

The g o vern m ents o f s o m e s e nd in g c o untr ie s a cti v ely e nco ura ge w om en to m ig ra te i n s e arc h o f d om esti c

jo bs, r e aso nin g th at m ig ra nt w om en a re m ore l ik ely th an th eir m ale c o unte rp arts to s e nd th eir h ard -e arn ed

wages to th eir fa m ilie s ra th er th an sp end in g th e m oney o n th em se lv es. In g enera l, w om en se nd h o m e

anyw here fr o m h alf to n early a ll o f w hat th ey e arn . T hese re m itta nces h av e a s ig nific ant im pact o n th e

liv es o f c hild re n, p are nts , s ib lin gs, a nd w id er n etw ork s o f k in — as w ell a s o n c ash -s tr a p ped T hir d W orld

go vern m ents . T hus, b efo re J o se p hin e l e ft f o r A th ens, a p ro gra m s p onso re d b y th e S ri L ankan g o vern m ent

ta ught h er h o w to u se a m ic ro w av e o ven, a v acuum c le aner, a nd a n e le ctr ic m ix er. A s s h e a w aite d h er

flig ht, a s o ng p ip ed in to th e a ir p ort d ep artu re lo unge e xto lle d th e o pportu nity to e arn m oney a b ro ad . T he

so ngw rite r w as i n th e p ay o f th e S ri L anka B ure au o f F ore ig n E m plo ym ent, a n o ffic e d ev is e d to e nco ura ge

wom en to m ig ra te . T he l y ric s s a y:

Afte r m uch h ard sh ip , s u ch d iffic u lt t im es

How l u cky I a m t o w ork i n a f o re ig n l a nd.

As t h e g old g ath ers s o d o m any g re ed y f lie s.

But o ur g ood g overn m en t p ro te cts u s f r o m t h em .

Afte r m uch h ard sh ip , s u ch d iffic u lt t im es,

How l u cky I a m t o w ork i n a f o re ig n l a nd.

I p ro m is e t o r e tu rn h om e w ith t r e a su re s f o r e very o ne.

Why th is tr a nsfe r o f w om en’s tr a d iti o nal s e rv ic es fr o m p oor to ric h p arts o f th e w orld ? T he re aso ns

are , i n a c ru d e w ay, e asy to g uess. W om en i n W este rn c o untr ie s h a v e i n cre asin gly ta ken o n p aid w ork , a nd hence n eed o th er— paid d om esti c s a nd c are ta kers f o r c hild re n a nd e ld erly p eo ple — to r e p la ce th em .

8

F or

th eir p art, w om en in p oor c o untr ie s h av e a n o bvio us in centi v e to

mig ra te : r e la ti v e a nd a b so lu te p overty .

The “care d efic it” th at has em erg ed in th e w ealth ie r co untr ie s as w om en ente r th e w ork fo rc e

pulls

mig ra nts f r o m th e T hir d W orld a nd p ostc o m munis t n ati o ns; p overty

push es

th em .

In b ro ad o utl in e, th is e xp la nati o n h o ld s tr u e. T hro ugho ut w este rn E uro pe, T aiw an, a nd J a p an, b ut a b ove

all i n th e U nite d S ta te s, E ngla nd , a nd S w ed en, w om en’s e m plo ym ent h as i n cre ase d d ra m ati c ally s in ce th e

1970s. In th e U nite d S ta te s, fo r e xam ple , th e p ro porti o n o f w om en in p aid w ork r o se fr o m 1 5 p erc ent o f

moth ers o f c hild re n s ix a nd u nd er i n 1 950 to 6 5 p erc ent to day. W om en n o w m ake u p 4 6 p erc ent o f th e U .S .

la b or f o rc e. T hre e-q uarte rs o f m oth ers o f c hild re n e ig hte en a nd u nd er a nd n early tw o-th ir d s o f m oth ers o f

child re n a ge o ne a nd y o unger n o w w ork fo r p ay. F urth erm ore , a cco rd in g to a r e cent In te rn ati o nal L ab or

Org aniz a ti o n s tu d y, w ork in g A meric ans a v era ged lo nger h o urs a t w ork in th e la te 1 990s th an th ey d id in

th e 1 970s. B y s o m e m easu re s, th e n um ber o f h o urs s p ent a t w ork h av e i n cre ase d m ore f o r w om en th an f o r

men, a nd e sp ecia lly f o r w om en i n m anageria l a nd p ro fe ssio nal j o bs.

Meanw hile , o ver th e l a st th ir ty y ears , a s th e r ic h c o untr ie s h av e g ro w n m uch r ic her, th e p oor c o untr ie s

hav e b eco m e— in b oth a b so lu te a nd r e la ti v e te rm s— poore r. G lo bal i n eq ualiti e s i n w ages a re p arti c ula rly

str ik in g. In H ong K ong, fo r in sta nce, th e w ages o f a F ilip in a d om esti c a re a b out fifte en ti m es th e a m ount

sh e c o uld m ake a s a s c ho olte acher b ack i n th e P hilip pin es. I n a d diti o n, p oor c o untr ie s tu rn in g to th e I M F

or W orld B ank fo r lo ans a re o fte n fo rc ed to u nd erta ke m easu re s o f s o -c alle d s tr u ctu ra l a d ju stm ent, w ith

dis a str o us re su lts fo r th e poor and esp ecia lly fo r poor w om en and child re n. T o qualify fo r lo ans,

go vern m ents a re u su ally re q uir e d to d ev alu e th eir c urre ncie s, w hic h tu rn s th e h ard c urre ncie s o f ric h

co untr ie s in to g o ld a nd th e s o ft c urre ncie s o f p oor c o untr ie s in to s tr a w . S tr u ctu ra l a d ju stm ent p ro gra m s

als o c all f o r c uts i n s u p port f o r “ no nco m peti ti v e i n d ustr ie s,” a nd f o r th e r e d ucti o n o f p ub lic s e rv ic es s u ch

as h ealth c are a nd fo od s u b sid ie s fo r th e p oor. C iti z e ns o f p oor c o untr ie s, w om en a s w ell a s m en, th us

hav e a s tr o ng i n centi v e to s e ek w ork i n m ore f o rtu nate p arts o f th e w orld .

But it w ould b e a m is ta ke to a ttr ib ute th e g lo baliz a ti o n o f w om en’s w ork to a s im ple s y nerg y o f n eed s

am ong w om en— one g ro up , i n th e a fflu ent c o untr ie s, n eed in g h elp a nd th e o th er, i n p oor c o untr ie s, n eed in g

jo bs. F or o ne th in g, th is f o rm ula ti o n f a ils to a cco unt f o r th e m ark ed f a ilu re o f F ir s t W orld g o vern m ents to

meet th e n eed s c re ate d b y its w om en’s e ntr y in to th e w ork fo rc e.

The d ow nsiz e d A meric an— and to a

le sse r d egre e, w este rn E uro pean— welfa re sta te h as b eco m e a “ d ead beat d ad .” U nlik e th e re st o f th e

in d ustr ia liz e d w orld , th e U nite d S ta te s d oes n o t o ffe r p ub lic c hild c are fo r w ork in g m oth ers , n o r d oes it

ensu re p aid fa m ily a nd m ed ic al le av e. M ore o ver, a s e rie s o f s ta te ta x re v olts in th e 1 980s re d uced th e

num ber o f h o urs p ub lic lib ra rie s w ere o pen a nd s la sh ed s c ho o l- e nric hm ent a nd a fte r-s c ho ol p ro gra m s.

Euro pe d id n o t e xp erie nce a nyth in g c o m para b le . S ti ll, te ns o f m illio ns o f w este rn E uro pean w om en a re i n

th e w ork fo rc e w ho w ere n o t b efo re — and th ere h as b een n o p ro porti o nate e xp ansio n i n p ub lic s e rv ic es.

Seco nd ly , a ny v ie w o f th e g lo baliz a ti o n o f d om esti c w ork a s s im ply a n a rra ngem ent a m ong w om en

co m ple te ly o m its th e ro le o f m en. N um ero us stu d ie s, in clu d in g so m e o f o ur o w n, h av e sh o w n th at a s

Americ an w om en to ok on paid em plo ym ent, th e m en in th eir fa m ilie s did littl e to in cre ase th eir

co ntr ib uti o n to th e w ork o f th e h o m e. F or e xam ple , o nly o ne o ut o f e v ery fiv e m en a m ong th e w ork in g

co up le s w ho m H ochsc hild in te rv ie w ed fo r

The S eco nd S hift

in th e 1 980s s h are d th e w ork a t h o m e, a nd

la te r stu d ie s su ggest th at w hile w ork in g m oth ers are doin g so m ew hat le ss ho use w ork th an th eir

co unte rp arts tw enty y ears a go , m ost m en a re d oin g o nly a littl e m ore .

9

W ith d iv orc e, m en fr e q uentl y

ab dic ate th eir c hild -c are r e sp onsib iliti e s to th eir e x-w iv es. I n m ost c ultu re s o f th e F ir s t W orld o uts id e th e

Unite d S ta te s, p ow erfu l tr a d iti o ns e v en m ore fir m ly d is c o ura ge h usb and s fr o m d oin g “ w om en’s w ork .”

So, str ic tl y sp eakin g, th e p re se nce o f im mig ra nt n annie s d oes n o t e nab le a fflu ent w om en to e nte r th e

work fo rc e; i t e nab le s a fflu ent

men

to c o nti n ue a v oid in g th e s e co nd s h ift.

The m en in w ealth ie r c o untr ie s a re a ls o , o f c o urs e , d ir e ctl y r e sp onsib le fo r th e d em and fo r im mig ra nt

se x w ork ers — as w ell a s f o r th e s e xual a b use o f m any m ig ra nt w om en w ho w ork a s d om esti c s. W hy, w e wond ere d , i s th ere a p arti c ula r d em and f o r “ im porte d ” s e xual p artn ers ? P art o f th e a nsw er m ay l ie i n th e

fa ct th at new im mig ra nts o fte n ta ke up th e le ast d esir a b le w ork , and , th anks to th e A ID S ep id em ic ,

pro sti tu ti o n h as b eco m e a jo b th at e v er fe w er w om en d elib era te ly c ho ose . B ut p erh ap s so m e o f th is

dem and , a s w e se e in D enis e B re nnan’s c hap te r o n se x to uris m , g ro w s o ut o f th e e ro ti c lu re o f th e

“exo ti c .” Im mig ra nt w om en m ay se em d esir a b le se xual p artn ers fo r th e sa m e re aso n th at F ir s t W orld

em plo yers b elie v e th em to b e e sp ecia lly g ifte d a s c are giv ers : th ey a re th o ught to e m body th e tr a d iti o nal

fe m in in e q ualiti e s o f n urtu ra nce, d ocility , a nd e agern ess to p le ase . S om e m en fe el

no sta lg ic fo r th ese

qualiti e s, w hic h th ey a sso cia te w ith a b ygo ne w ay o f life . E ven a s m any w age-e arn in g W este rn w om en

assim ila te to th e c o m peti ti v e c ultu re o f “ m ale ” w ork a nd a sk r e sp ect f o r m akin g i t i n a m an’s w orld , s o m e

men s e ek i n th e “ exo ti c O rie nt” o r “ ho t- b lo oded tr o pic s” a w om an f r o m th e i m agin ed p ast.

Of co urs e , no t all se x w ork ers m ig ra te v olu nta rily . A n ala rm in g num ber o f w om en and gir ls are

tr a ffic ked b y s m uggle rs a nd s o ld in to b ond age. B ecause tr a ffic kin g is ille gal a nd s e cre t, th e n um bers a re

hard to k no w w ith a ny c erta in ty . K ev in B ale s e sti m ate s th at in T haila nd a lo ne, a c o untr y o f 6 0 m illio n,

half a m illio n to a m illio n w om en a re p ro sti tu te s, a nd o ne o ut o f e v ery tw enty o f th ese is e nsla v ed .

10

A s

Bale s’s c hap te r i n th is b ook s h o w s, m any o f th ese w om en a re d aughte rs w ho m n o rth ern h ill- tr ib e f a m ilie s

hav e s o ld to b ro th els i n th e c iti e s o f th e s o uth . B elie v in g th e p ro m is e s o f j o bs a nd m oney, s o m e b egin th e

voyage w illin gly , o nly to d is c o ver d ays l a te r th at th e “ arra ngers ” a re tr a ffic kers w ho s te al th eir p assp orts ,

defin e th em a s d eb to rs , a nd e nsla v e th em a s p ro sti tu te s. O th er w om en a nd g ir ls a re k id nap ped , o r s o ld b y

th eir im poveris h ed fa m ilie s, and th en tr a ffic ked to bro th els . E ven w ors e fa te s befa ll w om en fr o m

neig hb orin g L ao s a nd B urm a, w ho f le e c ru sh in g p overty a nd r e p re ssio n a t h o m e o nly to f a ll i n to th e h and s

of T hai s la v e tr a d ers .

If th e fa cto rs th at p ull m ig ra nt w om en w ork ers to a fflu ent c o untr ie s a re n o t a s s im ple a s th ey a t fir s t

ap pear, neith er are th e fa cto rs th at push th em . C erta in ly re la ti v e poverty pla ys a m ajo r ro le , but,

in te re sti n gly , m ig ra nt w om en o fte n d o n o t c o m e fr o m th e p oore st c la sse s o f th eir s o cie ti e s.

11

In fa ct, th ey

are ty p ic ally m ore afflu ent and b ette r ed ucate d th an m ale m ig ra nts . M any fe m ale m ig ra nts fr o m th e

Philip pin es a nd M exic o , fo r e xam ple , h av e h ig h s c ho ol o r c o lle ge d ip lo m as a nd h av e h eld m id dle -c la ss

—alb eit lo w -p aid — jo bs b ack h o m e. O ne s tu d y o f M exic an m ig ra nts s u ggests th at th e tr e nd is to w ard

in cre asin gly b ette r-e d ucate d fe m ale m ig ra nts . T hir ty y ears a go , m ost M exic an-b orn m aid s in th e U nite d

Sta te s h ad b een p oorly e d ucate d m aid s in M exic o . N ow a m ajo rity h av e h ig h s c ho ol d egre es a nd h av e

held c le ric al, r e ta il, o r p ro fe ssio nal j o bs b efo re l e av in g f o r th e U nite d S ta te s.

12

S uch w om en a re l ik ely to

be e nte rp ris in g a nd a d ventu ro us e no ugh to r e sis t th e s o cia l p re ssu re s to s ta y h o m e a nd a ccep t th eir lo t in

life .

Noneco no m ic fa cto rs — or at le ast fa cto rs th at are no t im med ia te ly and dir e ctl y eco no m ic — als o

in flu ence a w om an’s d ecis io n to e m ig ra te . B y

mig ra ti n g, a w om an m ay e sc ap e th e e xp ecta ti o n th at s h e

care fo r e ld erly fa m ily m em bers , r e lin q uis h h er p aycheck to a h usb and o r fa th er, o r d efe r to a n a b usiv e

husb and . M ig ra ti o n m ay a ls o b e a p ra cti c al re sp onse to a fa ile d m arria ge a nd th e n eed to p ro vid e fo r

child re n w ith o ut m ale h elp . In th e P hilip pin es, c o ntr ib uto r R hacel S ala za r P arre ñas te lls u s, m ig ra ti o n is

so m eti m es c alle d a “ P hilip pin e d iv orc e.” A nd th ere a re fo rc es a t w ork th at m ay b e m akin g th e m en o f

poor c o untr ie s le ss d esir a b le a s h usb and s. M ale u nem plo ym en t ru ns h ig h in th e c o untr ie s th at su p ply

fe m ale d om esti c s to th e F ir s t W orld . U nab le to m ake a liv in g, th ese m en o fte n g ro w d em ora liz e d a nd

cease c o ntr ib uti n g to th eir fa m ilie s in o th er w ays. M any fe m ale m ig ra nts , in clu d in g th o se in M ic hele

Gam burd ’s c hap te r in th is v olu m e, te ll o f u nem plo yed h usb and s w ho d rin k o r g am ble th eir re m itta nces

aw ay. N ote s o ne s tu d y o f S ri L ankan w om en w ork in g a s m aid s in th e P ers ia n G ulf: “ It is n o t u nusu al …

fo r th e w om en to fin d u p on th eir re tu rn th at th eir G ulf w ages b y a nd la rg e h av e b een sq uand ere d o n

alc o ho l, g am blin g a nd o th er d ub io us u nd erta kin gs w hile th ey w ere a w ay.”

13

To a n e xte nt th en, th e g lo baliz a ti o n o f c hild c are a nd h o use w ork b rin gs th e a m biti o us a nd in d ep end ent wom en o f th e w orld to geth er: th e c are er-o rie nte d u p per-m id dle -c la ss w om an o f a n a fflu ent n ati o n a nd th e

str iv in g w om an fr o m a c ru m blin g T hir d W orld o r p ostc o m munis t e co no m y. O nly it d oes n o t b rin g th em

to geth er i n th e w ay th at s e co nd -w av e f e m in is ts i n a fflu ent c o untr ie s o nce l ik ed to i m agin e— as s is te rs a nd

allie s s tr u gglin g to a chie v e c o m mon g o als . In ste ad , th ey c o m e to geth er a s m is tr e ss a nd m aid , e m plo yer

and e m plo yee, a cro ss a g re at d iv id e o f p riv ile ge a nd o pportu nity .

This tr e nd to w ard glo bal re d iv is io n o f w om en’s tr a d iti o nal w ork th ro w s new lig ht o n th e enti r e

pro cess o f g lo baliz a ti o n. C onv enti o nally , i t i s th e p oore r c o untr ie s th at a re th o ught to b e d ep end ent o n th e

ric her o nes— a d ep end ency s y m boliz e d b y th e h uge d eb t th ey o w e to g lo bal fin ancia l in sti tu ti o ns. W hat

we exp lo re in th is book, ho w ev er, is a dep end ency th at w ork s in th e oth er dir e cti o n, and it is a

dep end ency o f a p arti c ula rly i n ti m ate k in d . I n cre asin gly o fte n, a s a fflu ent a nd m id dle -c la ss f a m ilie s i n th e

Fir s t W orld c o m e to d ep end o n m ig ra nts fr o m p oore r re gio ns to p ro vid e c hild c are , h o m em akin g, a nd

se xual se rv ic es, a glo bal re la ti o nsh ip aris e s th at in so m e w ays m ir ro rs th e tr a d iti o nal re la ti o nsh ip

betw een th e s e xes. T he F ir s t W orld ta kes o n a ro le lik e th at o f th e o ld -fa sh io ned m ale in th e fa m ily —

pam pere d , e nti tl e d , u nab le to c o ok, c le an, o r f in d h is s o cks. P oor c o untr ie s ta ke o n a r o le

lik e th at o f th e

tr a d iti o nal w om an w ith in th e fa m ily — pati e nt, n urtu rin g, a nd s e lf- d enyin g. A d iv is io n o f la b or fe m in is ts

criti q ued w hen i t w as “ lo cal” h as n o w , m eta p ho ric ally s p eakin g, g o ne g lo bal.

To p re ss th is m eta p ho r a b it f u rth er, th e r e su lti n g r e la ti o nsh ip i s b y n o m eans a “ m arria ge,” i n th e s e nse

of b ein g o penly a ckno w le d ged . In fa ct, it is s tr ik in g h o w in v is ib le th e g lo baliz a ti o n o f w om en’s w ork

re m ain s, h o w littl e it is n o te d o r d is c usse d in th e F ir s t W orld . T re nd s p otte rs h av e h ad a lm ost n o th in g to

sa y a b out th e f a ct th at i n cre asin g n um bers o f a fflu ent F ir s t W orld c hild re n a nd e ld erly p ers o ns a re te nd ed

by im mig ra nt c are w ork ers o r liv e in h o m es c le aned b y im mig ra nt m aid s. E ven th e p oliti c al g ro up s w e

mig ht e xp ect to b e c o ncern ed a b out th is tr e nd — anti g lo baliz a ti o n a nd fe m in is t a cti v is ts — ofte n s e em to

hav e no ti c ed o nly th e m ost extr a v agant ab use s, su ch as tr a ffic kin g and fe m ale ensla v em ent. S o if a

meta p ho ric ally g end ere d re la ti o nsh ip h as d ev elo ped b etw een ric h a nd p oor c o untr ie s, it is le ss lik e a

marria ge a nd m ore l ik e a s e cre t a ffa ir.

But i t i s a “ se cre t a ffa ir ” c o nd ucte d i n p la in v ie w o f th e c hild re n. L ittl e I s a d ora a nd th e o th er c hild re n

of th e F ir s t W orld ra is e d b y “ tw o m om mie s” m ay b e le arn in g m ore th an th eir A BC’s fr o m a lo vin g

su rro gate p are nt. I n th eir o w n l iv in g r o om s, th ey a re l e arn in g a v ast a nd tr a gic g lo bal p oliti c s.

14

C hild re n

se e. B ut th ey a ls o l e arn h o w to d is re gard w hat th ey s e e. T hey l e arn h o w a d ults m ake th e v is ib le i n v is ib le .

That i s th eir “ early c hild ho od e d ucati o n.”

In th is v olu m e, w e h o pe to m ake th e in v is ib le v is ib le a gain . T he e ssa ys w e b rin g to geth er r a nge fr o m

pers o nal re co lle cti o n to eco no m ic analy sis , and th ey sp an th e glo be fr o m T aiw an to M exic o , fr o m

Thaila nd to th e D om in ic an R ep ub lic . S om e e ssa ys d esc rib e a g lo bal tr a nsfe r o f e m oti o nal re so urc es

(H ochsc hild , P arre ñas), w hile o th ers c o nsid er th e p re ssu re s g lo bal c ap ita lis m p uts o n w om en a nd th eir

fa m ilie s ( S asse n). S om e p oin t to th e d ile m mas m ig ra nt d om esti c w ork ers r a is e fo r F ir s t W orld fe m in is m

(E hre nre ic h, A nd ers o n) and in q uir e in to th e sim ila riti e s and diffe re nces betw een th e situ ati o ns of

em plo yed a nd e m plo yer ( C heev er, H ond agneu-S ote lo , C onsta b le , R iv as, Z are m bka). S ev era l e ssa ys f o cus

on ho w im mig ra nt nannie s and m aid s hav e assu m ed th e ta sk s asso cia te d w ith tr a d iti o nal fa m ily

re la ti o nsh ip s, lik e th e o blig ati o ns o f d aughte rs -in -la w in T aiw an ( L an). S ti ll o th ers in v esti g ate th e w ays

th at w om en’s m ig ra ti o n has m odifie d re la ti o nsh ip s b etw een m en and w om en— both in m arria ge and

th ro ugh th e g lo bal s e x tr a d e ( B re nnan, G am burd , B ale s, T hai) .

The g lo baliz a ti o n o f w om en’s tr a d iti o nal ro le p ose s im porta nt c halle nges to a nyo ne c o ncern ed a b out

gend er and eco no m ic in eq uity . H ow can w e im pro ve th e liv es and o pportu niti e s o f m ig ra nt w om en

engaged in le gal occup ati o ns su ch as nannie s and m aid s? H ow can w e pre v ent tr a ffic kin g and

ensla v em ent? M ore b asic ally , c an w e f in d a w ay to c o unte rb ala nce th e s y ste m ati c tr a nsfe r o f c arin g w ork

fr o m p oor c o untr ie s to r ic h, a nd th e i n ev ita b le tr a um a o f th e c hild re n l e ft b ehin d ? O ur c o ntr ib uto rs d o n o t

hav e e asy a nsw ers , b ut th eir e ssa ys, m any b ase d o n r e cent a nd e xte nsiv e fie ld w ork , d o h elp u s ta ke th at esse nti a l f ir s t s te p — to b rin g th e w orld ’s m ost i n v is ib le w om en i n to th e l ig ht. B efo re w e c an h o pe to f in d

acti v is t s o lu ti o ns, w e n eed to s e e th ese w om en a s f u ll h um an b ein gs. T hey a re s tr iv ers a s w ell a s v ic ti m s,

wiv es a nd m oth ers a s w ell a s w ork ers — sis te rs , in o th er w ord s, w ith w ho m w e in th e F ir s t W orld m ay

so m ed ay d efin e a c o m mon a gend a. The N an ny D ile m ma

SU SA N C H EEV ER

D om in iq ue c am e to N ew Y ork e ig ht y ears a go , b ut s h e s a ys it w ould ta ke a life ti m e to fig ure o ut N ew

Y ork ers . W e te ach o ur k id s th at m oney c an’t b uy lo ve, a nd th en w e g o r ig ht a head a nd b uy it fo r th em —

h ir in g s tr a ngers to l o ve th em , b ecause w e h av e m ore i m porta nt th in gs to d o. “ Y ou a re w ork aho lic s, th at’ s

f o r s u re ,” s h e te lls m e, in th e lilti n g is la nd a ccent s h e u se s fo r u np le asa nt tr u th s. “ It’ s w ork , w ork , w ork

w ith y o u, a nd m oney, m oney, m oney. Y ou a naly ze e v ery littl e s tu p id th in g, a nd th en y o u r u n o ff to s o m e

t h era p is t to g et th e a nsw ers .” S he s h akes h er h ead a nd l a ughs, f id dlin g w ith a r e d p la sti c T hund erz o rd m y

f iv e-y ear-o ld s o n h as le ft o n th e ta b le . S tr a ngest o f a ll, s h e s a ys, w e s u p ers m art N ew Y ork ers a re a fr a id

o f o ur c hild re n— afr a id to s a y n o , a fr a id to d eny th em a nyth in g th at o th er k id s h av e. “ It’ s h ard fo r th e

n annie s to a d ju st to o ur N ew Y ork w ay,” s a ys E ile en S te in o f T ow n & C ountr y , a n a gency th at h as p la ced

D om in iq ue in s e v era l jo bs. “ H ere c hild re n a re th e b oss. T he c hild re n r u n th e h o m e. T he p are nts le t th e

c hild re n d o w hate v er th ey w ant.”

If th ere ’s a g o od w om an b ehin d e v ery g re at m an, b ehin d e v ery g re at w om an th ere ’s a g o od n anny. T he

r e str u ctu rin g o f th e A meric an fa m ily h as c re ate d a h uge d em and fo r c hild c are . A cco rd in g to a 1 992

D ep artm ent o f

Consu m er A ffa ir s r e p ort th at c alls th e n anny-p la cem ent in d ustr y a “ fr e e-fo r-a ll,” th ere a re

a lm ost 4 00,0 00 c hild re n u nd er th ir te en in N ew Y ork C ity w ho se p are nts b oth w ork , a nd fe w er th an

1 00,0 00 p la ces fo r th em in a fte r-s c ho ol a nd d ay-c are p ro gra m s. T he d em and fo r c hild c are a t h o m e h as

b een m et by an unre gula te d patc hw ork of agencie s, a fe w exp erie nced nannie s, and th o usa nd s of

i m mig ra nt w om en l o okin g f o r j o bs th at r e q uir e n o tr a in in g, n o d egre es, a nd , o fte n, n o p ap ers . “ It’ s h ard to

m ake a liv in g b ack h o m e,” s a ys D om in iq ue, w ho c am e fr o m T rin id ad o n a to uris t v is a w hen s h e w as

t w enty , le av in g b ehin d a jo b th at p aid th e e q uiv ale nt o f $ 130 a w eek. “ W ork in g h ere a nd s e nd in g m oney

h o m e i s th e o nly w ay I c an ta ke c are o f m y f a m ily .”

This c o llis io n o f n ecessity a nd n eed i s a d is a ste r f o r w ork in g m oth ers , w ho h av e to f in d r e lia b le c hild

c are in a n u nre lia b le m ark et, a nd fo r th e n annie s w ho w ork fo r th em w ith n o p ro te cti o n o r g uara nte es.

M any N ew Y ork n annie s a re fr o m th e C arib bean— Trin id ad , J a m aic a, o th er is la nd s o f th e W est In d ie s—

b ut th ere a re th o usa nd s o f P hilip pin e, Ir is h , a nd S outh a nd C entr a l A meric an n annie s, to o. ( A n anny is a

f u ll- ti m e w ork er w ho l iv es i n o r o ut a nd i s p aid b etw een $ 250 a nd $ 600 a w eek. A b ab y n urs e l iv es i n f o r

t w enty -fo ur h o urs a d ay d urin g th e fir s t w eeks o f a n in fa nt’ s life a nd g ets $ 100 a d ay o r m ore .) U su ally ,

n annie s a rriv e w ith v is a s th at a re v alid f o r a f e w m onth s. B ut f in d in g a g o od l e gal n anny i s s o d iffic ult th at

m any fa m ilie s a re w illin g to b re ak th e la w . A nd a gencie s so m eti m es lie a b out th e le gal sta tu s o f th e

n annie s th ey p la ce.

Dom in iq ue i s l u cky; s h e g o t h er g re en c ard th ro ugh o ne o f th e f ir s t f a m ilie s s h e w ork ed f o r. B ut i n e ig ht

y ears s h e h as h ad e ig ht j o bs— so m e g o od, s o m e b ad , s o m e u gly . T hese d ays, s h e l iv es i n B ro okly n— lik e

m ost n annie s, s h e c an’t a ffo rd M anhatta n r e nts — and w ork s f o r a p ro fe ssio nal c o up le w ho l iv e w ith th eir

t w o c hild re n i n a b ig p ostw ar b uild in g o n E ast E ig hty -s ix th S tr e et. S he h as w ork ed i n G re enw ic h V illa ge (s h e lo ves it) , o n th e U pper W est S id e ( s h e h ate s it) , a nd in th e s u b urb s ( tr a p ped !) . F ro m 1 992 to 1 994,

sh e w ork ed fo r m e, ta kin g care o f m y tw o child re n. I had alw ays th o ught o f m yse lf as th e p erfe ct

em plo yer; w hen I in te rv ie w ed D om in iq ue fo r th is a rti c le — in w hic h I h av e c hanged so m e n am es a nd

id enti fy in g d eta ils — sh e g entl y s e t m e s tr a ig ht.

Dom in iq ue’s m orn in g b egin s i n th e d ark , i n th e h eart o f B ro okly n. S he s w itc hes o n C D 1 01.9 r a d io a nd

Channel 5 T V (

Good D ay N ew Y o rk

), a nd

slid es a w orn B ib le o ut fr o m u nd er h er p illo w . “ C onsid er th e

lilie s o f th e f ie ld , h o w th ey g ro w ,” s h e r e ad s. “ T hey to il n o t, n eith er d o th ey s p in .” I t’ s 6 :0 8 A .M ., a nd th e

te m pera tu re is th ir ty -s ix d egre es. T here a re ti e -u p s o n th e G eo rg e W ash in gto n B rid ge a nd te n-m in ute

dela ys o n th e L exin gto n A venue lin e. “ T ake th ere fo re n o th o ught fo r th e m orro w ,” s h e r e ad s. “ S uffic ie nt

unto th e d ay is th e e v il th ere o f.” H er a p artm ent, a s tu d io th at c o sts $ 504 a m onth , is s p ars e ly fu rn is h ed ,

with a g la ss-to pped d in in g r o om ta b le a nd c hair s fr o m W ork b ench, a nd a b ed ; D om in iq ue w ould r a th er

hav e n o fu rn itu re th an th e ta cky s tu ff s o m e o f h er fr ie nd s c ro w d in to th eir a p artm ents . N ext to th e s te re o

sy ste m a re n eat p ile s o f T oni B ra xto n a nd L uth er V and ro ss ta p es a nd th e e ig ht- p ound d um bbells th at

Dom in iq ue u se s th re e o r fo ur ti m es a w eek— sh e d oes h alf a n h o ur o f lifti n g a nd tw enty m in ute s o f

aero bic s. O ut th e w in d ow , b eyo nd th e fir e e sc ap e, s h e c an s e e th e S ears s ig n o ver n ear F la tb ush A venue

and th e o utl in e o f C anars ie o ut to w ard J a m aic a B ay.

Out o n E ig hty -s ix th S tr e et, a n i c y w in d i s b lo w in g o ff th e E ast R iv er. D om in iq ue th in ks o f N ew Y ork a s

ho m e, b ut s h e’ll n ev er g et u se d to h o w c o ld i t i s h ere a nd th e w ay n ig ht f a lls a t f o ur o ’c lo ck i n th e w in te r.

She s to ps to b uy a n o ra nge a nd a S nap ple . T he p eo ple s h e w ork s fo r e at o ut, a nd th eir c hild re n liv e o n

sw eet c ere al, b re ad , b oxed f r u it j u ic e, a nd p eanut b utte r a nd j e lly th at a re p re m ix ed i n th e j a r. D om in iq ue

nurs e s h er S nap ple (g uav a o r p in k-g ra p efr u it fla v ore d ) a ll d ay, e ats th e o ra nge w hen s h e’s h ungry , a nd

tr ie s to m ake h ers e lf a p ro per d in ner w hen sh e g ets h o m e. O n a g o od n ig ht, sh e m akes so m e c urrie d

chic ken and ste am s so m e bro cco li. O n a bad nig ht, sh e sto ps at B urg er K in g fo r a sh ake. N ow ,

sh o uld erin g h er w ay th ro ugh th e c ro w ds, s h e p asse s th e h ealth -fo od s to re w here k id s e at v egeta ria n p iz za .

She a v oid s l o okin g i n th e w in d ow s o f a n ew , e xp ensiv e s h o e s to re : s h e l o ves to b uy s h o es.

At Y ork A venue, s h e tu rn s a w ay fr o m h er d esti n ati o n a nd g o es a ro und th e c o rn er o f E ig hty -s e v enth

Str e et to S t. J o se p h’s C hurc h. I n sid e, s h e c ro sse s h ers e lf w ith h o ly w ate r, l ig hts a c and le , a nd k neels n ear

th e b ack, w here s ta in ed -g la ss w in d ow s th ro w s p la sh es o f c o lo r o n th e w hite w ash ed w alls . It’ s a lm ost

eig ht o ’c lo ck. T he p eo ple sh e w ork s fo r are ju st getti n g o ut o f b ed . B ut as sh e kneels D om in iq ue

dayd re am s fo r a m in ute , re m em berin g h o m e: th e b ig w hite -a nd -b lu e h o use in V ale ncia w here s h e liv ed

afte r h er m oth er m arrie d th e s m all to w n’s u no ffic ia l m ayo r, B ig D ad dy W ill D ia m ond . T he c and le is fo r

her m oth er. S he a ls o p ra ys fo r h er o w n e ig ht- y ear-o ld d aughte r,

Cry sta l, w ho liv es in V ale ncia w ith

Dom in iq ue’s s is te r. D om in iq ue h asn ’t s e en h er d aughte r i n th re e y ears . A s s h e p ra ys, s h e f e els a f a m ilia r,

sh arp s a d ness a b out C ry sta l. T hen s h e r e m in d s h ers e lf th at th e m oney s h e i s m akin g w ill b uy h er d aughte r

an e d ucati o n, s o th at s h e c an g e t a s ta b le jo b w ith g o od w ages—

sh e

w on’t e nd u p in N ew Y ork ta kin g

care o f o th er p eo ple ’s c hild re n.

When D om in iq ue w as g ro w in g u p , sh e a lw ays k new sh e w asn ’t g o in g to b e a ty p ic al T rin i g ir l—

hangin g o ut i n V ale ncia , w ith i ts d ead -e nd j o bs a nd g ir ls w ho h ad c hild re n w hen

th ey

w ere s ti ll c hild re n.

She w as g o in g a lo t fa rth er th an S angre G ra nd e, th e n eare st b ig to w n, w hic h e v ery o ne c alle d S and y

Gra nd y. D om in iq ue h ad a n a unt w ho l iv ed i n L ond on, b ut s h e f a v ore d N ew Y ork . S he s a w

Satu rd ay N ig ht

Fever

f o ur ti m es. E very S und ay s h e w atc hed

Fam e,

th e T V s h o w s ta rrin g th e l u cky k id s a t th e N ew Y ork

Scho ol o f P erfo rm in g A rts , w ho s to pped tr a ffic w ith th eir d ancin g. D om in iq ue lo ved to d ance. S he s ti ll

does, tu rn in g u p th e v olu m e a nd p ullin g d ow n th e s h ad es a nd p ra ncin g a lo ne a ro und h er littl e r o om . B ut

no w sh e k no w s th at n o th in g sto ps N ew Y ork tr a ffic . “ T ake th ere fo re n o th o ught fo r th e m orro w ,” sh e

re m em bers a s s h e c ro sse s E ig hty -s ix th S tr e et to w ork . “ S uffic ie nt u nto th e d ay i s th e e v il th ere o f.”

Dom in iq ue s m ile s a t th e d oorm an a nd l e ts h ers e lf i n to th e a p artm ent. S uza nne i s d esp era te ly j ig glin g th e

cry in g b ab y o n o ne h ip w hile s h e tr ie s to m ake a p eanut- b utte r-a nd -je lly s a nd w ic h. T he d og is y ap pin g. Em ily , th e f iv e-y ear-o ld , i s g ig glin g a nd e ati n g F ro ot L oops a t th e k itc hen ta b le . T here ’s a p ud dle o f m ilk

on th e flo or. S uza nne’s n ig htg o w n is s ta in ed w ith a p ple -s a uce a nd in sta nt c o ffe e. D om in iq ue s a ys g o od

morn in g; in r e sp onse , S uza nne g ro ans a nd h and s h er th e b ab y. D om in iq ue c an h ear th e s h o w er: H enry is

getti n g r e ad y f o r w ork .

It’ s a m odern a p artm ent, w ith l o ts o f l ig ht, b ut i t’ s c ro w ded w ith f u rn itu re , a nd u no pened m over’s b oxes

are p ile d i n o ne c o rn er. T he k itc hen c o unte rs a re o verflo w in g w ith d is h es, a nd th e c ab in ets a re f ille d w ith

pap er p la te s a nd a p plia nces th at a re s ti ll i n b ub ble w ra p . W hen D om in iq ue to ok th is j o b, s ix m onth s a go ,

Suza nne e xp la in ed th at th ey h ad ju st m oved in . L ate r, D om in iq ue fo und o ut th at th ey h ad “ ju st m oved in ”

in 1 992; s h e h as o fte n h eard H enry b oast th at th ey g o t th e a p artm ent f o r a g re at p ric e i n a b uyer’s m ark et.

The bab y sc re eches w ith delig ht and th en gru nts w ith sa ti s fa cti o n,

wig glin g his w ho le body in

Dom in iq ue’s a rm s. D om in iq ue k is se s h im o n th e to p o f h is d ow ny h ead a nd s ile ntl y te lls h im to c hill. S he

doesn ’t w ant S uza nne to b e j e alo us. S he d oesn ’t l ik e d ealin g w ith p are nts ’ j e alo usy o f th e b ond s th at s h e

fo rm s w ith th eir c hild re n. “ T hey w ant u s to b e m oth er a nd f a th er to th ese c hild re n,” s h e s a ys. “ T hey’re th e

ones w ho b ro ught th e k id s in to th e w orld , b ut th en th ey d on’t h av e ti m e to ra is e th em . S o th e k id s g et

atta ched to y o u, b ecause y o u’re th e o ne w ho ’s a lw ays th ere . T hen th e p are nts g et a ngry .”

This i s p art o f w hat D om in iq ue a nd h er f r ie nd s c all th e a tta chm ent f a cto r— one o f th e m ost i n tr a nsig ent

pro ble m s o f b ein g a N ew Y ork n anny. “ T he k id s s e e y o u a ll th e ti m e, a nd th ey a ssu m e y o u a re g o in g to b e

part o f th eir l ife ,” s a ys S ally , a n I r is h n anny, w ho i s D om in iq ue’s c lo se st f r ie nd i n th e b uild in g. S ally h as

had th re e jo bs in fiv e y ears . T w o y ears a go , s h e a p plie d fo r a p ositi o n w ith a r ic h, p ro m in ent N ew Y ork

fa m ily . W hen s h e w as in te rv ie w ed , s h e w as to ld s h e w ould w ear a u nifo rm , w ould h av e to b e a v aila b le

fo r tr a v elin g, a nd w ould n ev er u nd er a ny c ir c um sta nces s p eak d ir e ctl y w ith th e p are nts o f th e c hild re n s h e

was c arin g f o r— th e f a m ily h ad h ir e d a l ia is o n p ers o n f o r th at. S he to ok th e j o b o n E ast E ig hty -s ix th S tr e et

in ste ad .

“W hen y o u l e av e, th e c hild re n c an b e d ev asta te d — and i t c an b re ak y o ur h eart to o,” S ally s a ys. N annie s

ra re ly g et n o ti c e. T hen th ere ’s th e p ro ble m o f th e h o urs , w hic h s e em to g et m ore f le xib le ( i.e ., l o nger) th e

lo nger y o u w ork f o r a f a m ily . T here ’s a ls o th e p ro ble m o f b ein g a sk ed to d o w ork — dog w alk in g, i r o nin g,

se rv in g a t d in ner p arti e s— th at w as n o t p art o f th e jo b d esc rip ti o n a nd w as n o t in clu d ed in th e o rig in al

sa la ry . A nd i f th e j o b c an s o m eti m es b e to o f le xib le , th e s a la ry i s o fte n i n fle xib le : m any e m plo yers c o unt

min ute s a nd d ed uct d olla rs w hen a n anny is la te . S om eti m es n annie s g et fa rm ed o ut to c le an o r b ab y-s it

fo r th eir e m plo yers ’ fr ie nd s, to o. “ W hen th ey a ct a s if m y s e rv ic es a re th eir p ro perty — pro perty th ey c an

le nd o ut w henev er th ey w ant— th at r e ally m akes m e f e el b ought,” S ally s a ys.

There i s th e p ro ble m o f s u m mers . M any f a m ilie s o ffe r n annie s a H obso n’s c ho ic e: e ith er g o a w ay w ith

th em a nd b e tr a p ped i n s o m e a ll- w hite r e so rt ( in n anny c ir c le s, th e H am pto ns a re a s y no nym f o r H ell) o r

ta ke to ken w ages w hile th ey’re g o ne. T here is th e p ro ble m o f a fa m ily ’s d ep end ence o n th eir n anny.

“S om e w eekend s, th ey c all m e fiv e o r s ix ti m es,” D om in iq ue s a ys. “ B asic ally , I’ m o n c all a ro und th e

clo ck. I f e el l ik e m y l ife i s n ’t m in e e v en w hen I ’ m a t h o m e.”

Many nannie s w ond er w hy th eir em plo yers b oth ere d to hav e child re n at all. “I se e th ese w om en

str u gglin g b etw een b ein g th e c are erp ers o n w ho g ets s e lf- e ste em fr o m h er jo b a nd b ein g th e p are nt w ho

re ally lo ves her child re n,” S ally sa ys. “B ut yo u sh o uld n’t hav e kid s if yo u’re no t re ad y to m ake

ad ju stm ents . S om eti m es it b lo w s m e a w ay w hen I’ ll c o m e in to w ork a nd th ere w ill b e n o m ilk a nd n o

cere al a nd n o m oney f o r g ro cerie s. T w o p eo ple w ith o ut k id s w ho e at o ut d on’t h av e to h av e g ro cerie s, b ut

with k id s y o u n eed to h av e s o m eth in g f o r th em to e at.”

Wors t o f a ll, b ein g a n anny is a jo b w ith n egati v e s ta b ility . W hen c hild re n g o to s c ho ol— and in N ew

York th ey s o m eti m es g o to s c ho ol a t a ge tw o— th e j o b b egin s to e v ap ora te . M any N ew Y ork c hild re n a re

in s c ho ol fr o m 9 :0 0 A .M . to 3 :0 0 P .M . b y th e ti m e th ey a re fiv e. N annie s h av e to g et a lo ng w ith th eir

em plo yers in a r e la ti o nsh ip th at is in c erta in r e sp ects m ore in ti m ate th an a m arria ge. S om eti m es th ey a re

tr e ate d lik e s e rv ants ; s o m eti m es th ey a re tr e ate d lik e b est fr ie nd s. T hey a re re q uir e d to b e c o m ple te ly re lia b le a nd c o m ple te ly d is c re et. T hey a re a sk ed to i g no re d ru g p ro ble m s. T hey m ust s e e n o e v il, h ear n o

ev il, sp eak n o e v il— lik e th e n anny in Ja m aic a K in caid ’s n o vel

Lucy,

w ho w alk s in o n h er e m plo yer

lic kin g th e n eck o f h is w ife ’s b est fr ie nd . ( T he in te nsity o f th e c o nnecti o n b etw een n annie s, m oth ers , a nd

child re n h as a ttr a cte d s to ry te lle rs fr o m H om er, w ho m ad e O dysse us’s n urs e th e o nly w om an w ho c o uld

id enti fy h im , to C harlo tte B ro ntë , w ho m ad e h er m ost s y m path eti c h ero in e, J a ne E yre , a g o vern ess. T he

nanny c ano n a ls o i n clu d es th e e v il M is s J e sse l f r o m H enry J a m es’s

The T urn o f t h e S cre w

, th e p re curs o r

to d oze ns o f m alig n c hild -c are p ro fe ssio nals , a ll a cti n g o ut a m oth er’s w ors t fe ars , r ig ht u p to

The H and

That R ocks t h e C ra dle

.)

Nannie s w ant to b e tr e ate d a s p ro fe ssio nals . D om in iq ue’s fr ie nd M aria to ok a n anny-a w are ness c la ss

in B ro okly n la st y ear. “ T he m ain th in g th ey to ld u s w as to b e b usin esslik e,” sh e sa ys. “ B usin esslik e,

busin esslik e! B ut it’ s h ard to b e b usin esslik e w hen y o u’re g o in g in to s o m eo ne’s h o use a nd ta kin g c are o f

th eir c hild re n.” I h eard o ne o r tw o h o rro r s to rie s fr o m th e n annie s I s p oke to : a n e m plo yer w ho w ould

giv e a r e fe re nce o nly in e xchange fo r s e x; a m an w ho le ft p orn o gra p hic p ic tu re s a ro und a nd w atc hed th e

nanny’s r e acti o n; a w om an w ho c hecked th e g arb age to s e e w hat h er c hild re n h ad e ate n; a no th er w om an

who c am e h o m e a t 2 :0 0 A .M . a nd b ro ke a ll th e w in d ow s i n h er a p artm ent w ith a h eav y c o pper s a ucep an.

But th e re al h o rro rs a re m ore su b tl e : e m plo yers w ho te ll th eir n annie s w hat to w ear, e m plo yers w ho

dep end

on th em s o m uch th at th e n annie s g o to w ork e v en w hen th ey’re s ic k. S ally s a ys, “ I l ie th ere i n b ed

when I’ m s ic k a nd I th in k, D id a nyo ne g et L aurie ’s lu nch? D o th ey k no w th at it’ s lib ra ry d ay? D o th ey

kno w th at s h e h as a p la y d ate w ith J o an a fte r s c ho ol? I m ig ht a s w ell g o to w ork .” A nd w hen a n anny

le av es, i t c an b e a s d ev asta ti n g f o r th e p are nts a s i t i s f o r th e c hild re n.

“W e w ould c lo se d ow n th e c ity ,” s a ys M yrtl e J o hnso n, a c hild -c are v ete ra n w ho w ork s a s a s h o rt- te rm

bab y n urs e b ecause s h e b elie v es th at n annie s a lw ays e nd u p g etti n g tr e ate d b ad ly . “ If w e d id n’t g o to

work , th e m oth ers w ould g o c ra zy, a nd th ey’d d riv e th eir h usb and s c ra zy, a nd n o o ne c o uld w ork . If

th ere ’s a g arb age s tr ik e, th e tr a sh ju st lie s th ere . If th ere ’s a p osta l s tr ik e, th e m ail d oesn ’t g et d eliv ere d .

But if th e n annie s w ere to s tr ik e it w ould b e d iffe re nt. Y ou c an’t ju st le av e a b ab y a ro und u nti l th ere ’s

so m eo ne r e ad y to ta ke c are o f i t.”

In tw enty -fiv e y ears a s a b ab y n urs e , M yrtl e h as tr a v ele d w ith fa m ilie s to C alg ary ( fo r th e O ly m pic s)

and L ond on (w here s h e s ta yed a t C la rid ge’s ) a nd h as s a v ed e no ugh to b uy a b ig b ric k h o use o n G ra nt

Avenue i n th e B ro nx. I n h er k itc hen th ere ’s a d oub le G arla nd s to ve— th e b est. U psta ir s , s h e h as i n sta lle d a

pin k-a nd -g o ld b ath ro om w ith a w ic ker b ask et o f flu ffy to w els ; it c o uld fit r ig ht in o n P ark A venue. B ut

su ccess h asn ’t c hanged h er a tti tu d e. “ T he n annie s a re th ere f o r th e d ura ti o n,” s h e s a ys. “ T he e m plo yers g et

to th in k th ey o w n th em , a nd i t’ s j u st l ik e a nyth in g e ls e . Y ou h av e a b oyfr ie nd , y o u d o a nyth in g to k eep h im ,

yo u g iv e h im c o ckta ils a nd lo bste rs . T hen, w hen h e m arrie s y o u, it’ s n o m ore c o ckta ils a nd n o m ore

lo bste rs .”

In th e th ir te en y ears I h av e b een r a is in g c hild re n in N ew Y ork , I’ v e e m plo yed th re e fu ll- ti m e n annie s,

su p ple m ente d b y a b out a d oze n b ab y-s itte rs . O ur g enera ti o n h as m ad e a r e lig io n o f p are nti n g. O ur m oth ers

had D r. S pock; w e h av e b ooks to fill a te n-fo ot sh elf. T hey h ad a fa m ily d octo r; w e h av e p ed ia tr ic

end ocrin o lo gis ts w ho s p ecia liz e i n g la nd ula r d is o rd ers . W e l o ve o ur c hild re n p assio nate ly , a nd f o r m e, a t

le ast, le av in g th em — fo r a w eek, o r e v en fo r a d ay— is th e h ard est th in g I’ v e e v er h ad to d o. T his m akes

th e p ers o n w ho ta kes c are o f th em i n m y a b se nce b oth i n d is p ensa b le a nd s o m eho w a n a gent o f s e p ara ti o n

and d oom — much m ore th an a s im ple e m plo yee. In m any fa m ilie s, w here w om en ta ke o n m ost o f th e jo b

of r a is in g th e c hild re n, a lo ng w ith d oin g th eir o uts id e jo bs, th e n anny b eco m es th e tr u e s ig nific ant o th er.

It’ s th e n anny w ho w ork s w ith th e m oth er to c re ate a p la ce w here th e c hild re n c an th riv e; th e h usb and i s a t

best a n a ssis ta nt to th e te am

and a t w ors t a n o bsta cle to th eir a im s. “ It’ s a f r a gile s itu ati o n,” S ally s a ys. “ I

hav e to c o m e i n e v ery m orn in g a nd a sse ss th e m ood i n th e h o use a nd ta ke u p th e s la ck. I n th ese m arria ges,

th e m oth ers d ep end o n u s s o th at th ey c an w ork , a nd th e fa th ers s o m eti m es g et o ff s c o t- fr e e— a lo t o f th e

ti m e it’ s as if th ey d id n’t ev en hav e child re n.” D om in iq ue and S ally hav e d ecid ed th at th e p erfe ct em plo yer w ould b e a s in gle m oth er w ith o ne c hild .

Honesty a nd p ro fe ssio nalis m g o a lo ng w ay to w ard h elp in g n annie s a nd fa m ilie s g et a lo ng, b ut th e

cir c um sta nces of th eir em plo ym ent w ill alw ays be co lo re d by our w ors t fe ars . T he nannie s kno w

ev ery th in g a b out u s, a nd w e k no w littl e a b out th em . T hey c o m e fr o m a lie n c ultu re s to fill o ur c ultu re ’s

most im porta nt jo b: r a is in g o ur k id s. W e’v e d ecid ed to le t o th er w om en ta ke c are o f o ur c hild re n s o th at

we c an g iv e th o se c hild re n a b ette r life . It’ s a n e xcru cia ti n g d ecis io n, a s th e n annie s k no w b ette r th an

anyo ne. T he tr u th i s , w e a re m ore l ik e o ur n annie s th an w e r e aliz e — str u ng o ut b etw een th e o ld w ays a nd

th e n ew , b etw een th e d em and s o f m oney a nd th e d em and s o f l o ve. T hey h av e c ho se n to g iv e th eir c hild re n

le ss m oth erin g so th at th ey c an m ake m ore m oney, a nd so h av e w e. T here a re b ad n annie s a nd g o od

nannie s, ju st as th ere are bad m oth ers and go od m oth ers , but it’ s our sim ila riti e s ra th er th an our

diffe re nces th at m ake th e s itu ati o n s o p ain fu l. Maid t o O rd er

BA RBA RA E H REN REIC H

A s c la ss p ola riz a ti o n g ro w s, th e c la ssic p ostu re o f s u b m is sio n m akes a s te alth y c o m eb ack. “ W e s c ru b

y o ur flo ors th e o ld -fa sh io ned w ay,” b oasts th e b ro chure fr o m M erry M aid s, th e la rg est o f th e r e sid enti a l

c le anin g s e rv ic es th at h av e s p ru ng u p in th e la st tw o d ecad es, “ o n o ur h and s a nd k nees.” T his is n o t a

p ostu re th at in d ep end ent “ cle anin g la d ie s” w illin gly a ssu m e— pre fe rrin g, lik e m ost p eo ple w ho c le an

t h eir o w n ho m es, th e sp onge m op w ie ld ed fr o m a sta nd in g p ositi o n. In her co m pre hensiv e guid e to

h o m em akin g, C hery l M end els o n w arn s, “ N ev er a sk h ir e d h o use cle aners to c le an y o ur flo ors o n th eir

h and s a nd k nees; th e r e q uest i s l ik ely to b e r e gard ed a s d egra d in g.”

1

But i n a s o cie ty w here 4 0 p erc ent o f th e w ealth i s o w ned b y 1 p erc ent o f h o use ho ld s, w hile th e b otto m

2 0 p erc ent re p orts n egati v e a sse ts , th e d egra d ati o n o f o th ers is re ad ily p urc hase d . K neep ad s e nte re d

A meric an p oliti c al d is c o urs e a s a to ol o f th e s e xually s u b se rv ie nt, b ut e m plo yees o f M erry M aid s, T he

M aid s I n te rn ati o nal, a nd o th er n ew c o rp ora te -ru n c le anin g s e rv ic es s p end h o urs e v ery d ay o n th ese k in ky

d ev ic es, w ip in g u p th e d rip pin gs o f th e a fflu ent.

I s p ent th re e w eeks in S ep te m ber 1 999 a s a n e m plo yee o f T he M aid s

In te rn ati o nal in a N ew E ngla nd

c ity , c le anin g, a lo ng w ith m y f e llo w te am m em bers , a p pro xim ate ly s ix ty h o use s c o nta in in g a to ta l o f a b out

2 50 s c ru b bab le flo ors — bath ro om s, k itc hens, a nd e ntr y w ays r e q uir in g th e h and s-a nd -k nees tr e atm ent. It’ s

a d iffe re nt w orld d ow n th ere b elo w k nee le v el, o ne th at fe w a d ults v olu nta rily e nte r. H ere y o u fin d

e la b ora te d ust s tr u ctu re s h eld to geth er b y a s c affo ld in g o f d og h air s ; d rie d b its o f p asta g lu ed to th e f lo or

b y th eir sa uce; th e co ngeale d re m ain s of gra v ie s, je llie s, co ntr a cep ti v e cre am s, vom it, and urin e.

S om eti m es to o y o u e nco unte r so m e fr a gm ent o f a h um an b ein g: a c hild ’s le gs, sta m pin g b y in d is g ust

b ecause th e m aid s a re s ti ll p re se nt w hen h e g ets h o m e fr o m s c ho ol, o r, m ore c o m monly , th e J o an a nd

D av id — cla d f e et a nd e le ctr o ly ze d c alv es o f th e f e m ale h o m eo w ner. L ook u p a nd y o u m ay f in d th is p ers o n

s ta rin g a t y o u, a rm s f o ld ed , i n a nti c ip ati o n o f a n o verlo oked s ta in . I n r a re i n sta nces, s h e m ay tr y to h elp i n

s o m e v ague, s y m bolic w ay, b y m ovin g th e c o ckato o’s c age, fo r e xam ple , o r a p olo giz in g fo r th e le av es

s h ed b y a m in ia tu re in d oor tr e e. M ostl y th o ugh, s h e w ill n o t s e e y o u a t a ll, a nd m ay e v en s it d ow n w ith

h er m ail a t a ta b le i n th e v ery r o om y o u a re c le anin g, w here s h e w ill r e m ain c o m ple te ly u naw are o f y o ur

e xis te nce— unle ss y o u w ere to c ra w l u nd er th at ta b le a nd s ta rt g naw in g a w ay a t h er a nkle s.

House w ork , a s y o u m ay r e call fr o m th e fe m in is t th eo rie s o f th e 1 960s a nd 1 970s, w as s u p pose d to b e

t h e gre at eq ualiz e r of w om en. W hate v er els e w om en did — jo bs, sc ho ol, child care — we als o did

h o use w ork , a nd i f th ere w ere s o m e w om en w ho h ir e d o th ers to d o i t f o r th em , th ey s e em ed to o p riv ile ged

a nd ra re to in clu d e in th e th eo re ti c al calc ulu s. A ll w om en w ere w ork ers , and th e ho m e w as th eir

w ork p la ce— unp aid a nd u nsu p erv is e d to b e s u re , b ut a w ork p la ce n o le ss th an th e o ffic es a nd fa cto rie s

m en r e p air e d to e v ery m orn in g. I f m en th o ught o f th e h o m e a s a s ite o f l e is u re a nd r e cre ati o n— a “ hav en i n

a h eartl e ss w orld ”— th is w as to i g no re th e i n v is ib le f e m ale p ro le ta ria t th at k ep t i t c o zy a nd h um min g. W e

w ere o n th e m arc h th en, o r s o w e im agin ed , u nite d a gain st a s o cie ty th at d ev alu ed o ur la b or e v en a s it waxed m aw kis h o ver “ th e fa m ily ” a nd “ th e h o m e.” S ho uld er to s h o uld er a nd a rm in a rm , w om en w ere

fin ally g etti n g u p o ff th e f lo or.

In th e m ost e ye-c atc hin g e la b ora ti o n o f th e h o m e-a s-w ork p la ce th em e, i n 1 972 M arx is t f e m in is ts M aria

Rosa D alla co sta a nd S elm a J a m es p ro pose d th at th e h o m e w as in fa ct a n e co no m ic ally p ro ducti v e a nd

sig nific ant w ork p la ce, a n e xte nsio n o f th e a ctu al f a cto ry , s in ce h o use w ork s e rv ed to “ re p ro duce

th e la b or

pow er” o f o th ers , p arti c ula rly m en. T he m ale w ork er w ould h ard ly b e in s h ap e to p unch in fo r h is s h ift,

afte r a ll, i f s o m e w om an h ad n o t f e d h im , l a und ere d h is c lo th es, a nd c are d f o r th e c hild re n w ho w ere h is

co ntr ib uti o n to th e n ext g enera ti o n o f w ork ers . If th e h o m e w as a q uasi- in d ustr ia l w ork p la ce s ta ffe d b y

wom en f o r th e u lti m ate b enefit o f th e c ap ita lis ts , th en “ w ages f o r h o use w ork ” w as th e o bvio us d em and .

But w hen m ost A meric an fe m in is ts , M arx is t o r o th erw is e , a sk ed th e M arx is t q uesti o n

Cui b ono?

th ey

te nd ed to c o m e u p w ith a fa r s im ple r a nsw er: m en. If w om en w ere th e d om esti c p ro le ta ria t, th en m en

mad e u p th e c la ss o f d om esti c e xp lo ite rs , fr e e to lo unge w hile th eir m ate s s c ru b bed . In c o nsc io usn ess-

ra is in g g ro up s, w e ra ile d o ver h usb and s a nd b oyfr ie nd s w ho re fu se d to p ic k u p a fte r th em se lv es, w ho

were u naw are o f h o use w ork a t a ll, u nle ss o f c o urs e it h ad n’t b een d one. T he “ d ro pped s o cks,” le ft b y a

man fo r a w om an to gath er up and la und er, jo in ed lip sti c k and sp ik e heels as em ble m s o f gend er

oppre ssio n. W hen, so m ew here , a m an d ro pped a so ck w ith th e c alm e xp ecta ti o n th at h is w ife w ould

re tr ie v e i t, i t w as a s o ck h eard r o und th e w orld . W here v er s e co nd -w av e f e m in is m to ok r o ot, b attl e s b ro ke

out b etw een l o vers o r s p ouse s o ver s ti c ky c o unte rto ps, p ile d -u p l a und ry , a nd w ho se tu rn i t w as to d o th e

dis h es.

The ra d ic al n ew id ea w as th at h o use w ork w as n o t o nly a re la ti o nsh ip b etw een a w om an a nd a d ust

bunny o r a n u nm ad e b ed ; it a ls o d efin ed a re la ti o nsh ip b etw een h um an b ein gs, ty p ic ally h usb and s a nd

wiv es. T his m ark ed a dep artu re fr o m th e m ore co nse rv ati v e vie w s of B etty F rie d an, w ho , in

The

Fem in in e M ystiq ue,

n ev er th o ught to e nte r m en i n to th e e q uati o n, e ith er a s p art o f th e h o use w ork p ro ble m

or p art o f a n e v entu al s o lu ti o n. S he r a ged a gain st a s o cie ty th at c o nsig ned i ts e d ucate d w om en to w hat s h e

sa w a s e sse nti a lly j a nito ria l c ho re s, b eneath “ th e a b iliti e s o f a w om an o f a v era ge o r n o rm al i n te llig ence”

and , a cco rd in g to u nid enti fie d stu d ie s sh e c ite d , “ p eculia rly su ite d to th e c ap aciti e s o f fe eb le -m in d ed

gir ls .” B ut m en a re v ir tu ally e xem pt fr o m h o use w ork in

The F em in in e M ystiq ue

—why d ra g th em d ow n

to o? A t o ne p oin t s h e e v en d is p ara ged a “ M rs . G .,” w ho “ so m eho w c o uld n’t g et h er h o use w ork d one

befo re h er h usb and c am e h o m e a t n ig ht a nd w as s o ti r e d th en th at h e h ad to d o i t.” E ducate d w om en w ould

ju st h av e to b eco m e m ore e ffic ie nt s o th at h o use w ork c o uld n o l o nger “ exp and to f ill th e ti m e a v aila b le .”

Or th ey c o uld h ir e o th er w om en to d o it— an o pti o n F rie d an a p pro ved in

The F em in in e M ystiq ue

. S o

did th e N ati o nal O rg aniz a ti o n fo r W om en, w hic h F rie d an help ed la unch: at th e 1 973 co ngre ssio nal

hearin gs o n w heth er to e xte nd th e F air L ab or S ta nd ard s A ct to h o use ho ld w ork ers , N OW te sti fie d to th e

affir m ati v e, a rg uin g th at i m pro ved w ages a nd w ork in g c o nd iti o ns w ould a ttr a ct m ore w om en to th e f ie ld ,

and th at “ th e d em and fo r h o use ho ld h elp in sid e th e h o m e w ill c o nti n ue to in cre ase a s m ore w om en s e ek

occup ati o ns o uts id e th e h o m e.” O ne y o ung N OW m em ber a d ded , o n a p ers o nal n o te , “ L ik e m any y o ung

wom en to day, I a m i n s c ho ol i n o rd er to d ev elo p a r e w ard in g c are er f o r m yse lf. I a ls o h av e a h o m e to r u n

and c an fu lly c o nceiv e o f th e n eed fo r h o use ho ld h elp a s m y fr e e ti m e a t h o m e b eco m es m ore a nd m ore

re str ic te d . W om en k no w [th at] h o use w ork is d ir ty , te d io us w ork , a nd th ey a re w illin g to p ay to h av e it

done.”

2

O n th e a sp ir a ti o ns o f th e w om en p aid to d o i t, a ssu m in g a t l e ast s o m e o f th em w ere b rig ht e no ugh

to e nte rta in a f e w , n eith er F rie d an n o r th ese m em bers o f N OW h ad , a t th e ti m e, a w ord to s a y.

So th e in sig ht th at d is ti n guis h ed th e m ore r a d ic al, p ost- F rie d an c o ho rt o f fe m in is ts w as th at w hen w e

ta lk ed a b out h o use w ork , w e w ere r e ally ta lk in g, y et a gain , a b out p ow er. H ouse w ork w as n o t d egra d in g

because i t w as m anual l a b or, a s F rie d an th o ught, b ut b ecause i t w as e m bed ded i n d egra d in g r e la ti o nsh ip s

and i n ev ita b ly s e rv ed to r e in fo rc e th em . T o m ake a m ess th at a no th er p ers o n w ill h av e to d eal w ith — th e

dro pped s o cks, th e to oth p aste s p ra yed o n th e b ath ro om m ir ro r, th e d ir ty d is h es l e ft f r o m a l a te -n ig ht s n ack

—is to exert d om in ati o n in o ne o f its m ore sile nt and in ti m ate fo rm s. O ne p ers o n’s arro gance— or in d iffe re nce, o r h urry — beco m es a no th er p ers o n’s o ccasio n f o r to il. A nd w hen th e p ers o n w ho i s c le aned

up a fte r is c o nsis te ntl y m ale , w hile th e p ers o n w ho c le ans u p is c o nsis te ntl y fe m ale , y o u h av e a fo rm ula

fo r r e p ro ducin g m ale d om in ati o n f r o m o ne g enera ti o n to th e n ext.

Hence th e fe m in is t p erc ep ti o n o f h o use w ork a s o ne m ore w ay b y w hic h m en e xp lo it w om en o r, m ore

neutr a lly sta te d , a s “ a sy m bolic e nactm ent o f g end er re la ti o ns.” A n e arly G erm an w om en’s -lib era ti o n

carto on d ep ic te d a w om an s c ru b bin g o n h er h and s a nd k nees w hile h er h usb and , a p pare ntl y e xcite d b y

th is p ose , a p pro aches f r o m b ehin d , u nzip pin g h is f ly . H ence, to o, th e s e co nd -w av e f e m in is ts ’ r e v uls io n a t

th e h ir in g o f m aid s, e sp ecia lly w hen th ey w ere w om en o f c o lo r. A t a fe m in is t c o nfe re nce I a tte nd ed in

1980, th e p oet A ud re L ord e c ho se to in su lt th e a ll- to o-w hite a ud ie nce b y a ccusin g

th em o f b ein g p re se nt

only b ecause th ey h ad b la ck h o use keep ers to l o ok a fte r th eir c hild re n a t h o m e. S he h ad th e w ro ng c ro w d;

most o f th e a sse m ble d r a d ic al fe m in is ts w ould n o s o oner h av e e m plo yed a b la ck m aid th an th ey w ould

hav e a tta ched C onfe d era te fla g sti c kers to th e re ar w in d ow s o f th eir c ars . B ut a ccusa ti o ns lik e h ers ,

re p eate d in c o untl e ss c o nfe re nces a nd m eeti n gs, re in fo rc ed o ur re je cti o n o f th e se rv ant o pti o n. T here

alr e ad y w ere a t le ast tw o a b le -b odie d a d ults in th e a v era ge h o m e— a m an a nd a w om an— and th e h o pe

was th at, a fte r a f e w i n iti a l s k ir m is h es, th ey w ould l e arn to s h are th e h o use w ork g ra cio usly .

A c o up le o f d ecad es la te r, h o w ev er, th e a v era ge h o use ho ld sti ll fa lls fa r sh o rt o f th at g o al. T ru e,

wom en d o le ss h o use w ork th an th ey d id b efo re th e fe m in is t re v olu ti o n a nd th e ris e o f th e tw o-in co m e

fa m ily : d ow n fr o m a n a v era ge o f 3 0 h o urs p er w eek in 1 965 to 1 7.5 h o urs in 1 995, a cco rd in g to a J u ly

1999 s tu d y f r o m th e U niv ers ity o f M ary la nd . S om e o f th at d eclin e r e fle cts a r e la xati o n o f s ta nd ard s r a th er

th an a r e d is tr ib uti o n o f c ho re s; w om en s ti ll d o tw o-th ir d s o f w hate v er h o use w ork — in clu d in g b ill p ayin g,

pet c are , ti d yin g, a nd la w n m ain te nance— gets d one. T he in eq uity is s h arp est fo r th e m ost d esp is e d o f

ho use ho ld cho re s: cle anin g. B etw een 1 965 and 1 995, m en in cre ase d th e ti m e th ey sp ent sc ru b bin g,

vacuum in g, and sw eep in g by 240 perc ent— all th e w ay up to 1.7 ho urs per w eek— while w om en

decre ase d th eir c le anin g ti m e b y o nly 7 p erc ent, to 6 .7 h o urs p er w eek.

3

T he a v era ges c o nceal a v arie ty o f

arra ngem ents , o f co urs e , fr o m m in ute ly nego ti a te d sh arin g to th e m ost clic hed d iv is io n o f la b or, as

desc rib ed b y o ne w om an to th e

Wash in gto n P ost:

“ I ta ke c are o f th e i n sid e, h e ta kes c are o f th e o uts id e.”

4

But p erh ap s th e m ost d is tu rb in g fin d in g is th at a lm ost a ll th e in cre ase in m ale p arti c ip ati o n to ok p la ce

betw een th e 1 970s and th e m id -1 980s. F ifte en years afte r th e ap pare nt cessa ti o n o f ho sti liti e s, it is

pro bab ly n o t to o s o on to c all th e q uesti o n: in th e “ cho re w ars ” o f th e 1 970s a nd 1 980s, w om en g ain ed a

littl e g ro und , b ut o vera ll, a nd a fte r a f e w s tr a te gic c o ncessio ns, m en w on.

Ente r th en, th e c le anin g la d y a s d ea e x m achin a, re sto rin g tr a nq uillity a s w ell a s o rd er to th e h o m e.

Marria ge co unse lo rs re co m mend hir in g th em as an alte rn ati v e to sq uab blin g, as d o m any w ith in th e

re sid enti a l c le anin g in d ustr y its e lf. A C hic ago c le anin g w om an q uo te s o ne o f h er c lie nts a s s a yin g th at if

sh e w ere to g iv e u p th e s e rv ic e, “ M y h usb and a nd I w ill b e d iv orc ed i n s ix m onth s.” M anagers o f th e n ew

co rp ora te c le anin g s e rv ic es, s u ch a s th e

one I w ork ed fo r, a ttr ib ute th eir s u ccess n o t o nly to th e in flu x o f

wom en in to th e w ork fo rc e b ut to th e te nsio ns o ver h o use w ork th at a ro se in its w ake. W hen th e tr e nd

to w ard h ir in g o ut w as ju st b egin nin g to ta ke o ff, in 1 988, th e o w ner o f a M erry M aid s fr a nchis e in

Arlin gto n, M assa chuse tts , to ld th e

Chris tia n S cie n ce M onito r,

“ I k id s o m e w om en. I s a y, ‘ W e e v en s a v e

marria ges.’ In th is n ew e ig hti e s p erio d, y o u e xp ect m ore fr o m th e m ale p artn er, b ut v ery o fte n y o u d on’t

get th e c o opera ti o n y o u w ould lik e to h av e. T he a lte rn ati v e is to p ay s o m eb ody to c o m e in .” A no th er

Merry M aid s fr a nchis e o w ner h as le arn ed to c ap ita liz e m ore d ir e ctl y o n h o use w ork -re la te d sp ats : h e

clo se s 3 0 to 3 5 p erc ent o f h is s a le s b y m akin g f o llo w -u p c alls o n S atu rd ay m orn in gs, th e “ p rim e ti m e f o r

arg uin g o ver th e fa ct th at th e h o use is a m ess.” T he m ic ro defe at o f fe m in is m in th e h o use ho ld o pened a

new d oor f o r w om en, o nly th is ti m e i t w as th e s e rv ants ’ e ntr a nce.

In 1 999, s o m ew here b etw een 1 4 a nd 1 8 p erc ent o f h o use ho ld s e m plo yed o uts id ers to d o th eir c le anin g,

and th e n um bers h av e b een r is in g d ra m ati c ally s in ce. M ed ia m ark R ese arc h r e p orts a 5 3 p erc ent i n cre ase ,

betw een 1 995 a nd 1 999, in th e n um ber o f h o use ho ld s u sin g a h ir e d c le aner o r s e rv ic e o nce a m onth o r more , a nd M aritz f in d s th at 3 0 p erc ent o f th e p eo ple w ho h ir e d h elp i n 1 999 d id s o f o r th e f ir s t ti m e th at

year. A mong m y m id dle -c la ss, p ro fe ssio nal w om en f r ie nd s a nd a cq uain ta nces, i n clu d in g s o m e w ho m ad e

im porta nt c o ntr ib uti o ns to th e e arly fe m in is t a naly sis o f h o use w ork tw o a nd a h alf d ecad es a go , th e

em plo ym ent o f a c le anin g p ers o n is n o w n early u niv ers a l. T he h o m e, o r a t le ast th e a fflu ent h o m e, is

fin ally b eco m in g w hat ra d ic al fe m in is ts in th e 1 970s o nly im agin ed it w as— a “ w ork p la ce” fo r w om en

and a ti n y, th o ugh i n cre asin gly v is ib le , p art o f th e c ap ita lis t e co no m y. T he q uesti o n i s th is : A s y o ur h o m e

beco m es a w ork p la ce f o r s o m eo ne e ls e , i s i t s ti ll a p la ce w here y o u w ant to l iv e?

S tr a ngely , o r p erh ap s n o t s o s tr a ngely a t a ll, n o o ne ta lk s a b out th e “ p oliti c s o f h o use w ork ” a nym ore . T he

dem and f o r “ w ages f o r h o use w ork ” n o l o nger h as th e p ow er to p ola riz e f e m in is t c o nfe re nces; i t h as s u nk

to th e s ta tu s o f a c urio , a lo ng w ith th e c o nsc io usn ess-ra is in g g ro up s i n w hic h w om en o nce r a llie d s u p port

in th eir s tr u ggle s w ith m essy m en. In th e a cad em y, a cco rd in g to th e fe m in is t s o cio lo gis ts I in te rv ie w ed ,

ho use w ork h as lo st m uch o f its fo rm er c achet— in p art, I s u sp ect, b ecause fe w er s o cio lo gis ts a ctu ally d o

it.

Most A meric ans, m ore th an 8 0 p erc ent, s ti ll c le an th eir h o m es, b ut th e m in o rity w ho d o n o t in clu d e a

siz e ab le f r a cti o n o f th e n ati o n’s o pin io n m akers a nd c ultu re p ro ducers : p ro fe sso rs , w rite rs , e d ito rs , m ed ia

decis io n m akers , p oliti c al f ig ure s, ta lk in g h ead s a nd c ele b riti e s o f a ll s o rts . I n th eir h o m es, th e p oliti c s o f

ho use w ork i s b eco m in g a p oliti c s n o t o nly o f g end er b ut a ls o o f r a ce a nd c la ss, a nd th ese a re s u b je cts th at

th e o pin io n-m akin g e lite , i f n o t m ost A meric ans, g enera lly p re fe r to a v oid .

Even th e n um ber o f p aid h o use ho ld w ork ers i s h ard to p in d ow n. T he C ensu s B ure au r e p orts th at th ere

were 5 49,0 00 d om esti c w ork ers in 1 998, up 9 p erc ent sin ce 1 996, b ut th is m ay b e a co nsid era b le

und ere sti m ate , s in ce s o m uch o f th e s e rv ant e co no m y is s ti ll u nd erg ro und . In 1 993, fo r e xam ple , th e y ear

when Z oë B air d lo st h er c hance to b e a tto rn ey g enera l fo r p ayin g h er u nd ocum ente d im mig ra nt n anny o ff

th e b ooks, th e

Los A ngele s T im es

re p orte d th at fe w er th an 1 0 p erc ent o f th o se A meric ans w ho p aid a

ho use -c le aner r e p orte d th ese p aym ents to th e IR S. S ocio lo gis t M ary R om ero , o ne o f th e fe w a cad em ic s

who r e ta in s a n a cti v e in te re st in h o use w ork a nd th e w om en w ho d o it fo r p ay, o ffe rs a n e xam ple o f h o w

se v ere th e u nd erc o unti n g c an b e. T he 1 980 c ensu s fo und o nly 1 ,0 63 “ p riv ate h o use ho ld w ork ers ” in E l

Paso , T exas, a lth o ugh a t th e s a m e ti m e, th at c ity ’s D ep artm ent o f P la nnin g, R ese arc h a nd D ev elo pm ent

esti m ate d th ese w ork ers ’ n um bers a t 1 3,4 00, a nd l o cal b us d riv ers e sti m ate d th at h alf o f th e 2 8,3 00 d aily

bus tr ip s w ere ta ken b y m aid s g o in g to a nd r e tu rn in g f r o m w ork .

5

T he h o nesty o f e m plo yers h as i n cre ase d

sin ce th e B air d s c and al, b ut m ost e xp erts b elie v e th at h o use ho ld w ork ers r e m ain , i n l a rg e p art, u nco unte d

and i n v is ib le to th e l a rg er e co no m y.

One th in g yo u can sa y w ith certa in ty ab out th e p opula ti o n o f ho use ho ld w ork ers is th at th ey are

dis p ro porti o nate ly w om en o f c o lo r: “ lo w er” k in d s o f p eo ple f o r a “ lo w er” k in d o f w ork . O f th e “ p riv ate

ho use ho ld c le aners a nd s e rv ants ” i t m anaged to l o cate i n 1 998, th e B ure au o f L ab or S ta ti s ti c s r e p orts th at

36.8 p erc ent w ere H is p anic , 1 5.8 p erc ent b la ck, and 2 .7 p erc ent “o th er.” C erta in ly th e asso cia ti o n

betw een h o use cle anin g a nd m in o rity sta tu s is w ell e sta b lis h ed in th e p sy ches o f th e w hite e m plo yin g

cla ss. W hen m y d aughte r, R osa , w as i n tr o duced to th e w ealth y f a th er o f a H arv ard c la ssm ate , h e v entu re d

th at s h e m ust h av e b een n am ed fo r a fa v orite m aid . A nd A ud re L ord e c an p erh ap s b e fo rg iv en fo r h er

in te m pera te a ccusa ti o n a t th e fe m in is t c o nfe re nce m enti o ned a b ove w hen w e c o nsid er a n e xp erie nce s h e

had in 1 967:

“I w heel m y tw o-y ear-o ld d aughte r in a s h o ppin g c art th ro ugh a s u p erm ark et … a nd a littl e

white g ir l r id in g p ast i n h er m oth er’s c art c alls o ut e xcite d ly , ‘ O h l o ok, M om my, a b ab y m aid .’ ”

6

T he c o m positi o n o f th e h o use ho ld w ork fo rc e is h ard ly fix ed , a nd it h as c hanged w ith th e life c hances o f

th e d iffe re nt e th nic g ro up s. In th e la te n in ete enth c entu ry , Ir is h a nd G erm an im mig ra nts s e rv ed th e u rb an

up per a nd m id dle c la sse s, th en le ft fo r th e fa cto rie s a s s o on a s th ey c o uld . B la ck w om en r e p la ced th em , acco unti n g fo r 6 0 p erc ent o f a ll d om esti c s in th e 1 940s a nd d om in ati n g th e fie ld u nti l o th er o ccup ati o ns

opened to th em . S im ila rly , W est C oast m aid s w ere d is p ro porti o nate ly J a p anese -A meric an u nti l th at g ro up

fo und m ore c o ngenia l o pti o ns.

7

T oday, th e c o lo r o f th e h and th at p ush es th e s p onge v arie s fr o m r e gio n to

re gio n: C hic anas i n th e S outh w est, C arib beans i n N ew Y ork , n ati v e H aw aiia ns i n H aw aii, n ati v e w hite s,

many o f r e cent r u ra l e xtr a cti o n, i n th e N ew E ngla nd c ity w here I b rie fly w ork ed .

The gre at m ajo rity — alth o ugh again , no o ne kno w s th e exact num bers — of p aid ho use keep ers are

fr e ela ncers , o r “ in d ep end ents ,” w ho fin d th eir c lie nts th ro ugh a gencie s o r n etw ork s o f a lr e ad y e m plo yed

fr ie nd s a nd r e la ti v es. T o m y a cq uain ta nces i n th e e m plo yin g c la ss, th e f r e ela nce h o use keep er s e em s to b e

a f a ir ly p riv ile ged a nd p ro sp ero us ty p e o f w ork er, s o m eti m es p aid $ 15 a n h o ur o r m ore a nd u su ally s a id

to b e v ie w ed a s a fr ie nd o r e v en a s “ o ne o f th e fa m ily .” B ut th e sh ifti n g e th nic c o m positi o n o f th e

work fo rc e te lls a no th er s to ry : m any w om en h av e b een tr a p ped in th is k in d o f w ork , w heth er b y r a cis m ,

im perfe ct E nglis h s k ills , i m mig ra ti o n s ta tu s, o r l a ck o f e d ucati o n. F ew h ap pily c ho ose i t. I n te rv ie w s w ith

in d ep end ent m aid s c o lle cte d b y R om ero a nd b y s o cio lo gis t J u d ith R ollin s, w ho h ers e lf w ork ed a s a m aid

in th e B osto n a re a in th e e arly e ig hti e s, c o nfir m th e u nd esir a b ility o f th e w ork to th o se w ho p erfo rm it.

8

Even w hen th e p ay is d eem ed a ccep ta b le , th e h o urs m ay b e lo ng a nd u np re d ic ta b le ; th ere is n o jo b

se curity ; th ere a re u su ally n o h ealth b enefits ; a nd if th e e m plo yer h as fa ile d to p ay S ocia l S ecurity ta xes

(in s o m e c ase s b ecause th e m aid h ers e lf p re fe rs to b e p aid o ff th e b ooks), th ere a re n o r e ti r e m ent b enefits .

And th e p ay is o fte n fa r fr o m accep ta b le . T he B LS fo und fu ll- ti m e “p riv ate ho use ho ld w ork ers and

se rv ants ” e arn in g a m ed ia n i n co m e o f $ 223 a w eek i n 1 998, w hic h i s $ 23 a w eek b elo w th e p overty l e v el

fo r a f a m ily o f th re e. R ecall th at i n 1 993 Z oë B air d p aid h er u nd ocum ente d h o use ho ld w ork ers $ 5 a n h o ur

out o f h er e arn in gs o f $ 507,0 00 a y ear.

At th e m ost l u rid e xtr e m e th ere i s s la v ery . A f e w c ase s o f c ap ti v ity a nd f o rc ed l a b or p op u p i n th e p re ss

ev ery y ear, m ost r e centl y i n v olv in g u nd ocum ente d w om en h eld i n s e rv itu d e b y h ig h-ra nkin g s ta ff m em bers

of th e U nite d N ati o ns, th e W orld B ank, a nd th e I n te rn ati o nal M oneta ry F und . C onsid er th e c harg es b ro ught

by E liz a b eth S engho r, a S enegale se w om an w ho to ld th e c o urt th at h er M anhatta n e m plo yers f o rc ed h er to

work fo urte en-h o ur d ays w ith o ut a ny r e gula r p ay a nd w ith n o a cco m modati o ns b eyo nd a p ullo ut b ed in

her e m plo yers ’ liv in g r o om . H ers is n o t a p arti c ula rly s ta rtl in g in sta nce o f d om esti c s la v ery ; n o b eati n gs

or s e xual a ssa ults w ere c harg ed , a nd M s. S engho r w as a p pare ntl y fe d . W hat g iv es th is c ase a c erta in

ru efu l poig nancy is th at her em plo yer, fo rm er U .N . em plo yee M arie A ngeliq ue S av ane, is one of

Senegal’s le ad in g w om en’s -rig hts a d vocate s, a nd h ad to ld th e

Chris tia n S cie n ce M onito r

in 1 986 a b out

her e ffo rts to g et th e S enegale se to “ re aliz e th at b ein g a w om an c an m ean o th er th in gs th an s im ply h av in g

child re n, ta kin g c are o f th e h o use .”

Mostl y th o ugh, in d ep end ent m aid s a nd th eir e m plo yers c o m pla in a b out th e p eculia r in ti m acy o f th e

em plo yer-e m plo yee re la ti o nsh ip . D om esti c se rv ic e is an occup ati o n th at pre d ate s th e re fr e sh in g

im pers o nality o f c ap ita lis m b y s e v era l th o usa nd y ears , c o nd iti o ns o f w ork b ein g s ti ll la rg ely d efin ed b y

th e i d io sy ncra sie s o f th e e m plo yers . S om e o f th em s e ek f r ie nd sh ip a nd e v en w hat th eir m aid s d esc rib e a s

“th era p y,” th o ugh th ey a re u su ally q uic k to r e d ra w th e lin es o nce th e m aid is p erc eiv ed a s o vers te p pin g.

Oth ers d em and d efe re nce b ord erin g o n se rv ility , w hile a n in cre asin g p orti o n o f th e n o uv eau ric he is

sim ply o ut o f c o ntr o l. In A ugust 1 999, th e

New Y o rk T im es

re p orte d o n th e g ro w in g p ro ble m o f d in ner

parti e s in u p sc ale h o m es b ein g d is ru p te d b y h o ste sse s s c re am in g a t th eir h elp . T o th e v erb al a b use , a d d

pub lis h ed r e p orts o f s e xual a nd p hysic al a ssa ults — th e te enage s o n o f a n e m plo yer, f o r e xam ple , k ic kin g a

liv e-in n anny f o r r e fu sin g to m ake s a nd w ic hes f o r h im a nd h is f r ie nd s a fte r s c ho ol.

For b ette r o r w ors e , cap ita lis t ra ti o nality is fin ally m akin g so m e head w ay in to th is p re in d ustr ia l

backw ate r. N ati o nw id e a nd e v en i n te rn ati o nal c le anin g s e rv ic es l ik e M erry M aid s, M olly M aid s, a nd T he

Maid s In te rn ati o nal, a ll o f w hic h h av e a ris e n s in ce th e 1 970s, n o w c o ntr o l 2 0 to 2 5 p erc ent o f th e $ 1.4

billio n h o use cle anin g b usin ess, a nd p erh ap s th eir g re ate st in no vati o n h as b een to a b olis h th e m is tr e ss-

maid r e la ti o nsh ip , w ith a ll i ts q uir k s a nd d ep end encie s. The c usto m er h ir e s th e s e rv ic e, n o t th e m aid , w ho h as b een r e p la ced a nyw ay b y a te am o f tw o to fo ur

unifo rm ed p eo ple , o nly o ne o f w ho m , th e te am l e ad er, i s u su ally a uth o riz e d to s p eak to th e c usto m er a b out

th e w ork a t h and . T he m aid s’ w ages, th eir S ocia l S ecurity ta xes, th eir g re en c ard s, b ackaches, a nd c hild –

care p ro ble m s a re th e so le c o ncern o f th e c o m pany, m eanin g th e lo cal fr a nchis e o w ner. If th ere a re

co m pla in ts o n e ith er s id e, th ey a re a d dre sse d to th e f r a nchis e o w ner; th e c usto m er a nd th e a ctu al w ork ers

need n ev er in te ra ct. S in ce th e fr a nchis e o w ner is u su ally a m id dle -c la ss w hite p ers o n, c le anin g s e rv ic es

are th e id eal s o lu ti o n fo r a nyo ne s ti ll s e nsiti v e e no ugh to fin d th e tr a d iti o nal e m plo yer-m aid r e la ti o nsh ip

mora lly v exin g. I n a 1 997 a rti c le a b out M erry M aid s,

Fra nch is e T im es

r e p orte d te rs e ly th at th e “ cate go ry

is b oom in g, [ a nd th e] n ic he i s h o t to o, a s A meric ans l o ok to o uts o urc e w ork e v en a t h o m e.”

Not a ll c le anin g s e rv ic es d o w ell. T here is a h ig h ra te o f fa ilu re a m ong th e in fo rm al, m om -a nd -p op

se rv ic es, lik e o ne I a p plie d to b y p ho ne th at d id n o t e v en r e q uir e a c urs o ry in te rv ie w ; a ll I w ould h av e

had to d o w as s h o w u p a t s e v en th e n ext m orn in g. T he “ b oom ” is c o ncentr a te d a m ong th e n ati o nal a nd

in te rn ati o nal c hain s— outf its l ik e M erry M aid s, M olly M aid s, M in i M aid s, M aid B rig ad e, a nd T he M aid s

In te rn ati o nal— all n am ed , c urio usly e no ugh, to h ig hlig ht th e m ore a nti q ue a sp ects o f th e i n d ustr y , a lth o ugh

th e “ m aid ” m ay o ccasio nally b e m ale . I n 1 996, M erry M aid s c la im ed to b e g ro w in g a t 1 5 to 2 0 p erc ent a

year, w hile s p okesp ers o ns fo r M olly M aid s a nd T he M aid s In te rn ati o nal e ach to ld m e th at th eir fir m s’

sa le s a re g ro w in g b y 2 5 p erc ent a y ear. L ocal fr a nchis e rs a re e q ually b ullis h . M y b oss a t T he M aid s

co nfid ed to m e th at he co uld doub le his busin ess overn ig ht, if only he co uld fin d eno ugh re lia b le

em plo yees.

To th is e nd , T he M aid s o ffe rs a w eek o f p aid v acati o n, h ealth in su ra nce a fte r n in ety d ays, a nd a fr e e

bre akfa st e v ery m orn in g, c o nsis ti n g, a t le ast w here I w ork ed , o f c o ffe e, d oughnuts , b agels , a nd b ananas.

Som e fr a nchis e s h av e d ealt w ith th e ti g ht la b or m ark et b y p arti c ip ati n g in w elfa re -to -w ork p ro je cts th at

no t o nly f u nnel th em e m plo yees b ut o fte n s u b sid iz e th eir p aychecks w ith p ub lic m oney, a t l e ast f o r th e f ir s t

fe w m onth s o f w ork ( w hic h d oesn ’t m ean th at th e n ew ly m in te d m aid e arn s m ore , o nly th at th e c o m pany

has to p ay h er le ss). T he M erry M aid s fr a nchis e in th e c ity w here I w ork ed is c o nv enie ntl y lo cate d a

blo ck a w ay f r o m th e c ity ’s w elfa re o ffic e.

Among th e w om en I w ork ed w ith a t T he M aid s, o nly o ne sa id sh e h ad p re v io usly w ork ed a s a n

in d ep end ent, a nd s h e p ro fe sse d to b e p le ase d w ith h er n ew s ta tu s a s a c le anin g-s e rv ic e e m plo yee. S he n o

lo nger n eed ed a c ar to g et h er fr o m h o use to h o use , a nd s h e c o uld ta ke a d ay o ff— unp aid , o f c o urs e — to

sta y h o m e w ith a s ic k c hild w ith o ut ris k in g th e lo ss o f a c usto m er. C le anin g s e rv ic es a re a n e sp ecia lly

ap pealin g o pti o n f o r r e cent i m mig ra nts , w ho a re u nlik ely to h av e c ars o r th e c o nta cts th ey w ould n eed to

work a s in d ep end ents ; la rg e s e rv ic es, lik e T he M aid s, h av e v id eo ta p es u se d fo r tr a in in g n ew h ir e s in

Spanis h a nd w ell a s E nglis h . I m yse lf c o uld s e e th e a d vanta ge o f n o t h av in g to d eal d ir e ctl y w ith th e

custo m ers , w ho w ere s o m eti m es a t h o m e w hile w e w ork ed a nd e ager to m ake u se o f th eir s u p erv is o ry

sk ills . C riti c is m s o f o ur m eth o ds, a s w ell a s d em and s th at w e p erfo rm u nsc hed ule d ta sk s, c o uld s im ply b e

re fe rre d to th e te am l e ad er o r, b eyo nd h er, to th e f r a nchis e o w ner.

But w ork ers in ev ita b ly fa ce lo sse s w hen a n in d ustr y m oves fr o m th e e ntr e p re neuria l to th e in d ustr ia l

phase — most s tr ik in gly , in th is c ase , in th e m atte r o f p ay. A t M erry M aid s, I w as p ro m is e d $ 200 fo r a

fo rty -h o ur w eek, w ith th e m anager h aste nin g to a d d th at “ yo u c an’t c alc ula te i t i n d olla rs p er h o ur,” s in ce

th e f o rty h o urs i n clu d es a ll th e ti m e s p ent tr a v elin g f r o m h o use to h o use — up to f iv e h o use s a d ay— whic h

is unp aid . T he M aid s In te rn ati o nal, w ith its str a ig htf o rw ard sta rti n g ra te o f $ 6.6 3 an ho ur, se em ed

pre fe ra b le , a lth o ugh th is r a te w as c o nd iti o nal o n p erfe ct a tte nd ance. M is s o ne d ay a nd y o ur w age d ro pped

to $ 6 a n h o ur f o r tw o w eeks, a r u le th at w eig hed p arti c ula rly h eav ily o n th o se w ho h ad y o ung c hild re n. I n

ad diti o n, I s o on l e arn ed th at m anagem ent h ad w ays o f s h av in g o ff n early a n h o ur’s w orth o f w ages a d ay.

We w ere to ld to a rriv e a t 7 :3 0 i n th e m orn in g, b ut o ur b illa b le h o urs b egan o nly a fte r w e h ad b een te am ed

up , g iv en o ur lis t o f h o use s fo r th e d ay, a nd p acked o ff in th e c o m pany c ar a t a ro und 8 :0 0. A t th e e nd o f

th e d ay, w e w ere n o lo nger p aid fr o m th e m om ent w e le ft th e c ar, a lth o ugh a s m uch a s fifte en m in ute s o f work — so rti n g th ro ugh th e r a gs d ir ti e d i n th e c o urs e o f th e d ay, r e fillin g c le anin g-flu id b ottl e s, a nd th e l ik e

—re m ain ed to b e d one in th e o ffic e. S o fo r a s ta nd ard n in e-h o ur d ay, th e a ctu al p ay a m ounte d to a b out

$6.0 6 a n h o ur, u nle ss y o u w ere s ti ll b ein g p unis h ed f o r a n a b se nce, i n w hic h c ase i t c am e o ut to $ 5.4 8 a n

ho ur.

Nor a re c le anin g-s e rv ic e e m plo yees lik ely to r e ceiv e a ny o f th e p erk s o r ti p s fa m ilia r to in d ep end ents

—fr e e lu nches a nd c o ffe e, c ast- o ff c lo th in g, o r a C hris tm as g ift o f c ash . W hen I a sk ed , o nly o ne o f m y

co w ork ers c o uld re call e v er re ceiv in g a ti p , a nd th at w as a v oucher fo r a fr e e m eal a t a d ow nto w n

re sta ura nt o w ned b y a c usto m er. M ore th an a y ear l a te r, s h e h ad s ti ll h ad n’t u se d i t, p ro bab ly b ecause s h e

would h av e to e at a lo ne, th e $ 20 o r s o f o r a c o m panio n’s m eal b ein g o ut o f th e q uesti o n. T he c usto m ers o f

cle anin g s e rv ic es a re p ro bab ly n o s ti n gie r th an th e e m plo yers o f i n d ep end ents ; th ey j u st d on’t k no w th eir

cle anin g p eo ple a nd p ro bab ly w ould n’t r e co gniz e th em o n th e s tr e et. T hey m ay e v en g et a d iffe re nt c re w

each v is it. B esid es, c usto m ers p ro bab ly a ssu m e th at th e f e e th ey p ay th e s e rv ic e— $25 p er p ers o n-h o ur i n

th e c ase o f m y f r a nchis e o f T he M aid s— go es l a rg ely to th e w ork ers w ho d o th e a ctu al c le anin g.

T he m ost in te re sti n g fe atu re of th e cle anin g-s e rv ic e chain s, at le ast fr o m an ab str a ct, his to ric al

pers p ecti v e, is th at th ey a re fin ally tr a nsfo rm in g th e h o m e in to a fu lly c ap ita lis t- s ty le w ork p la ce, a nd in

ways th at th e o ld w ages-fo r-h o use w ork a d vocate s c o uld n ev er h av e im agin ed . A h o use is a n in nate ly

diffic ult w ork p la ce to c o ntr o l, e sp ecia lly a h o use w ith te n o r m ore ro om s, lik e so m any o f th o se w e

cle aned ; w ork ers m ay r e m ain o ut o f o ne a no th er’s s ig ht fo r m any m in ute s, a s m uch a s a n h o ur a t a ti m e.

For in d ep end ents , th e u ngo vern ab le n atu re o f th e h o m e w ork p la ce m eans a c erta in a m ount o f a uto no m y.

They c an ta ke b re aks ( th o ugh th is i s p ro bab ly i ll- a d vis e d i f th e h o m e o w ner i s o n th e p re m is e s); th ey c an

ease th e m ono to ny b y l is te nin g to th e r a d io o r te le v is io n w hile th ey w ork . B ut c le anin g s e rv ic es l a y d ow n

ru le s m eant to e nfo rc e a fa cto ry lik e— or e v en c o nv entl ik e— dis c ip lin e o n th eir fa r-flu ng e m plo yees. A t

The M aid s, th ere w ere n o b re aks e xcep t fo r a d aily te n-m in ute s to p a t a c o nv enie nce s to re fo r c o ffe e o r

“lu nch,” m eanin g s o m eth in g lik e a s lic e o f p iz za . O th erw is e , th e ti m e s p ent d riv in g b etw een h o use s w as

co nsid ere d o ur “b re ak” and w as th e o nly chance to eat, d rin k, o r (a lth o ugh th is w as als o o ffic ia lly

fo rb id den) s m oke a c ig are tte . W hen th e h o use s w ere s p aced w ell a p art, I c o uld e at th e s a nd w ic h I p acked

each d ay in o ne sitti n g; o th erw is e it w ould h av e to b e d iv id ed in to a s m any a s th re e se p ara te , h asty

sn acks.

With in a custo m er’s ho use , no th in g w as to to uch o ur lip s at all— no t ev en w ate r. O n ho t d ays, I

so m eti m es b ro ke th at r u le b y d rin kin g f r o m a b ath ro om f a ucet. T ele v is io ns a nd r a d io s w ere o ff- lim its , a nd

we w ere n ev er, e v er to c urs e o ut lo ud , e v en in a n o ste nsib ly d ese rte d h o use . T here m ig ht b e a h o m e

ow ner se cre te d in so m e lo cked ro om , w e w ere to ld , e ar p re sse d to th e d oor, o r, m ore lik ely , a ta p e

re co rd er o r v id eo c am era r u nnin g. A t th e ti m e, I d is m is se d th is a s a s c are s to ry , b ut I h av e s in ce c o m e

acro ss a d s fo r c o nceala b le v id eo c am era s, lik e th e T ech 7 “ in cre d ib le c o in -s iz e d c am era ,” d esig ned to

“get a v is u al r e co rd o f y o ur b ab ysitte r’s a cti o ns” a nd “ w atc h e m plo yees to p re v ent th eft.” I t w as th e th re at

or r u m or o f h id den r e co rd in g d ev ic es, s e t u p b y c usto m ers to c atc h o ne o f u s s te alin g, th at p ro vid ed th e

fin al c ap ita lis t- in d ustr ia l to uch: s u p erv is io n.

But w hat m akes th e w ork m ost fa cto ry -lik e is th e in te nse T aylo riz a ti o n im pose d b y th e c o m panie s. A n

in d ep end ent, o r a p ers o n c le anin g h is o r h er o w n h o m e, c ho ose s w here s h e w ill s ta rt a nd , w ith in e ach

ro om , pro bab ly ta ckle s th e m ost egre gio us dir t fir s t. O r sh e m ay pla n her w ork m ore or le ss

erg o no m ic ally , f ir s t d oin g w hate v er c an b e d one f r o m a s ta nd in g p ositi o n a nd th en s q uatti n g o r c ro uchin g

to r e ach th e l o w er l e v els . B ut w ith th e s p ecia l “ sy ste m s” d ev is e d b y th e c le anin g s e rv ic es a nd i m parte d to

em plo yees th ro ugh tr a in in g v id eo s, th ere a re n o s u ch d ecis io ns to m ake. In T he M aid s’ “ health y-to uch”

sy ste m , w hic h is s im ila r to w hat I s a w o f th e M erry M aid s’ s y ste m o n th e tr a in in g ta p e I w as s h o w n

durin g m y in te rv ie w , all cle anin g is d iv id ed in to fo ur ta sk are as— dusti n g, v acuum in g, kitc hens, and bath ro om s— whic h a re i n tu rn d iv id ed a m ong th e te am m em bers . F or e ach ta sk a re a o th er th an v acuum in g,

th ere i s a b ucket c o nta in in g r a gs a nd th e a p pro pria te c le anin g f lu id s, s o th e b ig gest d ecis io n a n e m plo yee

has to m ake i s w hic h f lu id a nd s c ru b bin g i n str u m ent ( ra g, b ru sh , o r D obie -b ra nd p la sti c s c o urin g p ad ) to

dep lo y o n w hic h kin d o f su rfa ce; alm ost ev ery th in g els e has b een cho re o gra p hed in ad vance. W hen

vacuum in g, y o u b egin w ith th e m aste r b ed ro om ; w hen d usti n g, w ith th e f ir s t r o om o ff th e k itc hen, th en y o u

move th ro ugh th e r o om s g o in g le ft to r ig ht. W hen e nte rin g e ach r o om , y o u p ro ceed fr o m le ft to r ig ht a nd

to p to b otto m , a nd th e s a m e w ith e ach s u rfa ce— le ft to rig ht, to p to b otto m . D ev ia ti o ns a re s u b je ct to

re b uke, a s I d is c o vere d w hen a te am l e ad er c aught m e m ovin g m y a rm f r o m r ig ht to l e ft, th en l e ft to r ig ht,

while w ip in g W in d ex o ver a F re nch d oor.

It’ s n o t e asy fo r a nyo ne w ith e xte nsiv e c le anin g e xp erie nce— and I in clu d e m yse lf in th is c ate go ry — to

accep t th is lo ss o f a uto no m y o ver h er m ovem ents fr o m m in ute to m in ute . B ut I c am e to lo ve th e s y ste m :

fir s t, b ecause i f y o u h ad n’t a lw ays b een tr a v elin g r ig o ro usly f r o m l e ft to r ig ht, i t w ould h av e b een e asy to

lo se y o ur w ay i n s o m e o f th e l a rg er h o use s a nd to o m it o r r e d o a r o om . S eco nd , m any o f o ur h o use s w ere

alr e ad y c le an w hen w e s ta rte d , a t le ast b y a ny n o rm al s ta nd ard s, th anks p ro bab ly to a h o use keep er w ho

kep t th in gs u p b etw een o ur v is its ; b ut th e a b se nce o f v is ib le d ir t d id n o t m ean th ere w as l e ss w ork to d o,

fo r n o s u rfa ce c o uld e v er b e n egle cte d , s o it w as im porta nt to h av e “ th e s y ste m ” to r e m in d y o u o f w here

yo u h ad b een a nd w hat y o u h ad a lr e ad y “ cle aned .” N o d oub t th e b ig gest a d vanta ge o f th e s y ste m , th o ugh,

is th at it h elp s y o u a chie v e th e s p eed d em and ed b y th e c o m pany, w hic h a llo ts o nly s o m any m in ute s p er

dom ic ile ( fr o m a b out fo rty -fiv e fo r a s m allis h a p artm ent u p to s e v era l h o urs p er h o use ). A fte r a w eek o r

tw o o n th e j o b, I f o und m yse lf m ovin g r o botl ik e f r o m s u rfa ce to s u rfa ce, g ra te fu l to h av e b een r e lie v ed o f

th e th in kin g-p ro cess.

Even r itu al w ork , h o w ev er, ta kes i ts to ll o n th o se a ssig ned to p erfo rm i t. T urn o ver i s d iz zy in gly h ig h i n

th e c le anin g-s e rv ic e i n d ustr y , a nd n o t o nly b ecause o f th e u su al c halle nges th at c o nfr o nt th e w ork in g p oor,

in clu d in g c hild -c are p ro ble m s, u nre lia b le tr a nsp orta ti o n, e v ic ti o ns, a nd p rio r h ealth c o nd iti o ns. A s m y

lo ngw in d ed in te rv ie w er a t M erry M aid s w arn ed m e, a nd a s m y c o w ork ers a t T he M aid s c o nfir m ed , th is

is a p hysic ally p unis h in g o ccup ati o n, s o m eth in g to ti d e y o u o ver f o r a f e w m onth s, n o t y ear a fte r y ear. T he

hand s-a nd -k nees p ostu re d am ages knees, w ith o r w ith o ut p ad s; v acuum in g str a in s th e b ack; co nsta nt

wip in g a nd s c ru b bin g i n v ite r e p eti ti v e-s tr e ss i n ju rie s e v en i n th e v ery y o ung. I n m y th re e w eeks a s a m aid ,

I s u ffe re d n o th in g m ore th an a p ers is te nt m usc le s p asm i n th e r ig ht f o re arm — fr o m s c ru b bin g, I s u p pose —

but th e d am age w ould h av e b een fa r w ors e if I’ d h ad to g o h o m e e v ery d ay to m y o w n h o use w ork a nd

child re n, a s m ost o f m y c o w ork ers d id , in ste ad o f re tu rn in g to m y m ote l a nd in d ulg in g in a d aily a fte r-

work r e gim en o f ic e p acks a nd s tr e tc hes. C ho re s th at s e em e ffo rtl e ss a t h o m e, e v en a lm ost r e cre ati o nal

when u nd erta ken a t w ill f o r tw enty m in ute s o r s o a t a ti m e, q uic kly tu rn n asty w hen p erfo rm ed h o ur a fte r

ho ur, w ith f e w o r n o b re aks a nd u nd er r e le ntl e ss ti m e p re ssu re .

So f a r, th e i n d ep end ent, e ntr e p re neuria l h o use c le aner i s h o ld in g h er o w n, b ut th ere a re r e aso ns to th in k

th at co rp ora te cle anin g se rv ic es w ill ev entu ally dom in ate th e in d ustr y . N ew use rs ofte n pre fe r th e

im pers o nal, s ta nd ard iz e d s e rv ic e o ffe re d b y th e c hain s, a nd i n a f a st- g ro w in g i n d ustr y , n ew u se rs m ake u p

a siz a b le c hunk o f th e to ta l c lie nte le . G overn m ent re gula ti o n a ls o fa v ors th e c o rp ora te c hain s, w ho se

sp okesm en s p eak g ra te fu lly o f th e “ Z oë B air d e ffe ct,” r e fe rrin g to c usto m ers ’ w orrie s a b out b ein g c aught

em plo yin g a n u nd ocum ente d im mig ra nt. B ut th e fu tu re o f h o use cle anin g m ay d ep end o n th e e ntr y o f e v en

big ger p la yers in to th e in d ustr y . M erry M aid s, th e la rg est o f th e c hain s, h as th e a d vanta ge o f b ein g a u nit

with in th e $ 6.4 b illio n S erv ic eM aste r c o nglo m era te , w hic h i n clu d es s u ch r e la te d b usin esse s a s T ru G re en

Chem Law n, T erm in ix , R esc ue R oote r, a nd F urn itu re M ed ic . A fe w o th er la rg e fir m s a re te sti n g, o r h av e

te ste d , th e w ate r: J o hnso n W ax a cq uir e d M olly M aid i n 1 987–88, th en a b and oned i t, a cco rd in g to a M olly

Maid s p okesp ers o n, b ecause th e w ax p eo ple w ere to o “ p ro duct o rie nte d ” f o r th e “ re la ti o nal” c ultu re o f a

se rv ic e-p ro vid in g c o m pany. S w is h er In te rn ati o nal, b est k no w n a s a n in d ustr ia l to ile t- c le anin g s e rv ic e, is

opera ti n g S w is h er M aid s in G eo rg ia a nd N orth C aro lin a; a nd S ears m ay b e fe elin g its w ay in to th e busin ess to o. If la rg e m ulti n ati o nal fir m s esta b lis h a fo oth o ld in th e in d ustr y , th e m obile custo m ers

so cio lo gis t S ask ia S asse n calls th e “new tr a nsn ati o nal p ro fe ssio nals ” w ill b e ab le to fin d th e sa m e

bra nd ed a nd s ta nd ard iz e d p ro duct w here v er th ey r e lo cate . F or th e a ctu al w ork ers , th e c hange w ill, i n a ll

lik elih o od, m ean a m ore s ta nd ard iz e d a nd s p eed ed -u p a p pro ach to th e w ork , w ith l e ss f r e ed om o f m oti o n

and f e w er c hances to p ause .

T he tr e nd to w ard o uts o urc in g th e w ork o f th e h o m e s e em s, a t th e m om ent, u nsto ppab le . T w o h und re d

years a go , w om en m anufa ctu re d s o ap , c and le s, c lo th , a nd c lo th in g i n th eir o w n h o m es, a nd th e c o m pla in ts

of so m e w om en a t th e tu rn o f th e tw enti e th c entu ry th at th ey h ad b een “ ro bbed … b y th e re m oval o f

cre a tiv e

w ork ” fr o m th e h o m e s o und p oin tl e ssly r e acti o nary to day. N ot o nly h av e th e s k ille d c ra fts , lik e

se w in g a nd c o okin g f r o m s c ra tc h, l e ft th e h o m e, b ut m any o f th e “ w hite -c o lla r” ta sk s a re o n th eir w ay o ut

to o. F or a fe e, new fir m s lik e S an F ra ncis c o -b ase d L es C oncie rg es and C ro ss It O ff Y our L is t in

Manhatta n w ill p ic k u p d ry c le a nin g, b ab y-s it p ets , b uy g ro cerie s,

deliv er d in ner, e v en d o th e C hris tm as

sh o ppin g. W ith o th er fir m s a nd in d iv id uals o ffe rin g to b uy y o ur c lo th es, o rg aniz e y o ur fin ancia l file s,

str a ig hte n o ut y o ur c lo se ts a nd d ra w ers , a nd w ait a ro und in y o ur h o m e fo r th e p lu m ber to s h o w u p , w hy

would a nyo ne w ant to h o ld o n to th e to ile t c le anin g?

Abse nt a lo ng-te rm s o urin g o f th e e co no m y, th ere is e v ery r e aso n to th in k th at A meric ans w ill b eco m e

in cre asin gly r e lia nt o n p aid h o use keep ers a nd th at th is r e lia nce w ill e xte nd e v er fu rth er in to th e m id dle

cla ss. F or o ne th in g, th ere is n o r e aso n to e xp ect th at m en w ill v olu nta rily ta ke o n a g re ate r s h are o f th e

burd en, a nd m uch o f th e n eed fo r p aid h elp a ris e s fr o m th eir a b dic ati o n. A s fo r c hild re n, o nce a h and y

so urc e o f h o use ho ld h elp : th ey a re n o w o ff a t s o ccer p ra cti c e o r S A T-p re p c la sse s, a nd G ra nd m oth er h as

re lo cate d to w arm er w eath er o r ta ken u p a s e co nd c are er. F urth erm ore , d esp ite th e f a ct th at p eo ple s p end

le ss ti m e a t h o m e th an e v er, th e s q uare fo ota ge o f n ew h o m es s w elle d b y 3 9 p erc ent b etw een 1 971 a nd

1996, to i n clu d e f a m ily r o om s, h o m e-e nte rta in m ent r o om s, h o m e o ffic es, b ed ro om s, a nd o fte n a b ath ro om

fo r e ach f a m ily m em ber.

9

B y th e s e co nd q uarte r o f 1 999, 1 7 p erc ent o f n ew h o m es w ere l a rg er th an th re e

th o usa nd s q uare fe et, w hic h is u su ally c o nsid ere d th e s iz e th re sh o ld fo r h o use ho ld h elp , o r th e p oin t a t

whic h a h o use b eco m es u nm anageab le to th e p eo ple w ho l iv e i n i t.

10

One m ore tr e nd im pels p eo ple to h ir e o uts id e h elp , a cco rd in g to c le anin g e xp ert C hery l M end els o n:

fe w er A meric ans k no w h o w to c le an o r e v en to “ str a ig hte n u p .” I h ear th is fr o m p ro fe ssio nal w om en

defe nd in g th eir d ecis io n to h ir e a m aid : “ I’ m ju st n o t v ery g o od a t it m yse lf” o r “ I w ould n’t r e ally k no w

where to b egin .” S in ce m ost o f u s l e arn to c le an f r o m o ur p are nts ( u su ally o ur m oth ers ), a ny d im in uti o n o f

cle anin g sk ills is tr a nsm itte d fr o m o ne g enera ti o n to th e n ext, lik e a g ene th at c an, in th e a p pro pria te

env ir o nm ent, tu rn o ut to b e l e th al o r d is a b lin g. U pper-m id dle -c la ss c hild re n r a is e d i n th e s e rv ant e co no m y

of th e e arly tw enty -fir s t c entu ry a re b ound to g ro w u p a s d om esti c ally i n co m pete nt a s th eir p are nts , a nd n o

le ss d ep end ent o n o th ers to c le an u p a fte r th em . M end els o n s e es th is a s a m eta p hysic al l o ss, a “ m atte r o f

no lo nger bein g physic ally cente re d in yo ur env ir o nm ent.” H av in g cle aned th e ro om s of m any

overp riv ile ged te enagers d urin g m y s ti n t w ith T he M aid s, I th in k th e p ro ble m is a littl e m ore u rg ent th an

th at. T he A meric an overc la ss is ra is in g a genera ti o n of yo ung peo ple w ho w ill, w ith o ut co nsta nt

assis ta nce, s u ffo cate i n th eir o w n d etr itu s.

If th ere a re m ora l lo sse s, to o, a s A meric ans in cre ase th eir r e lia nce o n p aid h o use ho ld h elp , n o o ne h as

been ta ctl e ss e no ugh to ra is e th em . A lm ost e v ery th in g w e b uy, a fte r a ll, is th e p ro duct o f so m e o th er

pers o n’s s u ffe rin g a nd m is e ra b ly u nd erp aid la b or. I c le an m y o w n h o use , b ut I c an h ard ly c la im p urity in

any o th er a re a o f c o nsu m pti o n. I b uy m y j e ans a t th e G ap , w hic h i s r e p ute d to s u b co ntr a ct to s w eats h o ps. I

te nd to fa v or d eco ra ti v e o bje cts n o d oub t r ip ped o ff, b y th eir p urv eyo rs , fr o m s c anti ly p aid T hir d W orld cra fts p ers o ns. L ik e e v ery o ne e ls e , I e at sa la d g re ens p ic ked b y m ig ra nt fa rm -w ork ers , so m e o f th em

possib ly child re n. A nd so o n. W e can tr y to m in im iz e th e p ain th at go es in to fe ed in g, clo th in g, and

oth erw is e p ro vis io nin g o urs e lv es— by o bse rv in g b oyco tts , c heckin g fo r a u nio n la b el, a nd so o n— but

th ere i s n o w ay to a v oid i t a lto geth er w ith o ut l iv in g i n th e w ild ern ess o n b errie s. W hy s h o uld h o use w ork ,

am ong a ll th e g o ods a nd s e rv ic es w e c o nsu m e, a ro use a ny s p ecia l a ngst?

Yet i t d oes, a s I h av e f o und i n c o nv ers a ti o ns w ith l ib era l- m in d ed e m plo yers o f m aid s, p erh ap s b ecause

we a ll s e nse th at th ere a re w ays i n w hic h h o use w ork i s d iffe re nt f r o m o th er p ro ducts a nd s e rv ic es. F ir s t i s

its i n ev ita b le p ro xim ity to th e a cti v iti e s th at c o nsti tu te “ p riv ate ” l ife . T he h o m e th at b eco m es a w ork p la ce

fo r o th er p eo ple re m ain s a ho m e, ev en w hen th at w ork p la ce is m in ute ly re gula te d b y th e co rp ora te

cle anin g c hain s. S om eo ne w ho h as n o q ualm s a b out p urc hasin g r u gs w oven b y c hild -s la v es in In d ia , o r

co ffe e p ic ked b y r u in ed p easa nts in G uate m ala , m ig ht s ti ll h esita te to te ll d in ner g uests th at, s u rp ris in gly

eno ugh, h is o r h er l o vely h o m e d oub le s a s a s w eats h o p d urin g th e d ay. Y ou c an e sc hew th e c hain c le anin g

se rv ic es o f c o urs e , h ir e a n i n d ep end ent c le aner a t a g enero us h o urly w age, a nd e v en e nco ura ge, a t l e ast i n

sp ir it, th e u nio niz a ti o n o f th e h o use cle anin g i n d ustr y — and o f c o urs e y o u s h o uld d o a ll th ese th in gs i f y o u

are a n e m plo yer o f h o use ho ld h elp . B ut n o ne o f th is w ill c hange th e f a ct th at s o m eo ne i s w ork in g i n y o ur

ho m e a t a j o b s h e w ould a lm ost c erta in ly n ev er h av e c ho se n f o r h ers e lf— if s h e’d h ad a c o lle ge e d ucati o n,

fo r e xam ple , o r w as a n ati v e-b orn A meric an w ith g o od E nglis h s k ills — or th at th e p la ce w here s h e w ork s,

ho w ev er e nth usia sti c ally o r r e se ntf u lly , i s th e s a m e a s th e p la ce w here y o u s le ep .

It is a ls o th e p la ce w here y o ur c hild re n a re ra is e d , a nd w hat th ey le arn p re tty q uic kly is th at s o m e

peo ple a re le ss w orth y th an o th ers . E ven b ette r

wages a nd w ork in g c o nd iti o ns w on’t e ra se th e h ie ra rc hy

betw een a n e m plo yer a nd h is o r h er d om esti c h elp , sin ce th e h elp is u su ally th ere o nly b ecause th e

em plo yer h as “ so m eth in g b ette r” to d o w ith h er ti m e, a s o ne r e p ort o n th e g ro w th o f c le anin g s e rv ic es p uts

it, n o t n o ti c in g th e o bvio us im plic ati o n th at th e c le anin g p ers o n h ers e lf h as

noth in g

b ette r to d o w ith h er

ti m e. In a m ere ly m id dle -c la ss h o m e, th e m essa ge m ay b e re in fo rc ed b y a w arn in g to th e c hild re n th at

th at’ s w hat th ey’ll e nd u p d oin g if th ey d on’t tr y h ard er in s c ho ol. H ouse w ork , a s r a d ic al fe m in is ts o nce

pro pose d , d efin es a h um an r e la ti o nsh ip a nd , w hen u neq ually d iv id ed a m ong th e s o cia l g ro up s, r e in fo rc es

pre exis ti n g i n eq ualiti e s. D ir t, i n o th er w ord s, te nd s to a tta ch to th e p eo ple w ho r e m ove i t— “garb agem en”

and “ cle anin g l a d ie s.” O r, a s c le anin g e ntr e p re neur D on A sle tt to ld m e w ith s o m e b itte rn ess— and th is i s

a s u ccessfu l m an, th e c hair m an o f th e b oard o f a n in d ustr ia l c le anin g s e rv ic e a nd a fr e q uent te le v is io n

guest— “T he w ho le m enta lity o ut th ere i s th at i f y o u c le an, y o u’re a s c um ball.”

I ncre asin gly o fte n, th e h o use c le aner is a w om an o f c o lo r a nd a r e cent a rriv al fr o m th e T hir d W orld , s o

th at th e im plic it le sso n fo r th e h o use ho ld ’s c hild re n is th at a nyo ne fe m ale w ith d ark sk in a nd b ro ken

Englis h i s a p ers o n o f i n fe rio r s ta tu s— so m eo ne w ho h as “ no th in g b ette r” to d o. W hat w e r is k a s d om esti c

work is ta ken o ver b y im mig ra nt w ork ers is r e p ro ducin g, w ith in o ur o w n h o m es, th e g lo bal in eq ualiti e s

th at s o p ain fu lly d iv id e th e w orld .

There i s a no th er l e sso n th e s e rv ant e co no m y te aches i ts b enefic ia rie s a nd , m ost tr o ub lin gly , th e c hild re n

am ong th em . T o b e c le aned u p a fte r is to a chie v e a c erta in m agic al w eig htl e ssn ess a nd im mate ria lity .

Alm ost ev ery o ne co m pla in s ab out vio le nt vid eo gam es, but paid ho use cle anin g has th e sa m e

co nse q uence-a b olis h in g e ffe ct: y o u b la st th e v illa in in to a m is t o f b lo od d ro ple ts a nd m ove r ig ht a lo ng;

yo u d ro p th e so cks k no w in g th ey w ill e v entu ally le v ita te , la und ere d a nd fo ld ed , b ack to th eir n o rm al

dw ellin g p la ce. T he r e su lt i s a k in d o f v ir tu al e xis te nce, i n w hic h th e tr a il o f l itte r th at f o llo w s y o u s e em s

to e v ap ora te a ll b y its e lf. S pill s y ru p o n th e flo or a nd th e c le anin g p ers o n w ill s c ru b it o ff w hen s h e

co m es o n W ed nesd ay. L eav e th e

Wall S tr e et J o urn al

s c atte re d a ro und y o ur a ir p la ne s e at a nd th e flig ht

atte nd ants w ill d eal w ith it a fte r y o u’v e d ep la ned . S pra y to xin s in to th e a tm osp here fr o m y o ur fa cto ry ’s

sm okesta cks a nd th ey w ill b e filte re d o ut e v entu ally b y th e

lu ngs o f th e b re ath in g p ub lic . A se rv ant eco no m y m ay p ro vid e o pportu niti e s, h o w ev er l im ite d , f o r p oor a nd i m mig ra nt w om en. B ut i t a ls o b re ed s

callo usn ess a nd so lip sis m in th e se rv ed , a nd it d oes so a ll th e m ore e ffe cti v ely w hen th e se rv ic e is

perfo rm ed c lo se u p a nd r o uti n ely i n th e p la ce w here th ey l iv e a nd r e p ro duce.

In d iv id ual s itu ati o ns v ary , o f c o urs e , in w ays th at e lu d e b la nket ju d gm ent. S om e p eo ple — th e e ld erly

and d is a b le d , p are nts o f n ew b ab ie s, a sth m ati c s w ho re q uir e a n a lle rg en-fr e e e nv ir o nm ent— may w ell

need h elp p erfo rm in g w hat n urs in g-h o m e sta ffe rs c all th e A DLs, o r a cti v iti e s o f d aily liv in g, a nd n o

sh am e s h o uld b e a tta ched to th eir d ep end ency. In a m ore g enero us s o cia l o rd er, h o use keep in g s e rv ic es

would b e su b sid iz e d fo r th o se w ho h av e h ealth -re la te d re aso ns to n eed th em — a m easu re th at w ould

genera te a s u rfe it o f jo bs fo r th e e ntr y -le v el w ork ers w ho n o w c le an th e h o m es o f th e a fflu ent. A nd in a

le ss g end er-d iv id ed so cia l o rd er, h usb and s a nd b oyfr ie nd s w ould m ore re ad ily d o th eir sh are o f th e

cho re s. T he g ro w in g s e rv ant e co no m y, w ith a ll th e q uand arie s it g enera te s, is la rg ely a re su lt o f m en’s

co nti n uin g a b dic ati o n f r o m th eir d om esti c r e sp onsib iliti e s.

How ev er w e re so lv e th e is su e in o ur in d iv id ual h o m es, th e m ora l c halle nge is , p ut s im ply , to m ake

work v is ib le again : no t o nly th e sc ru b bin g and v acuum in g, b ut all th e ho ein g, sta ckin g, ham merin g,

drillin g, b end in g, a nd lifti n g th at g o es in to c re ati n g a nd m ain ta in in g a liv ab le h ab ita t. In a n e v er m ore

eco no m ic ally u neq ual w orld , w here s o m any o f th e a fflu ent d ev ote th eir liv es to g ho stl y p urs u its lik e

sto ck tr a d in g, im age m akin g, a nd o pin io n p ollin g, re al w ork , in th e o ld -fa sh io ned se nse o f la b or th at

engages h and a s w ell a s e ye, th at ti r e s th e b ody a nd d ir e ctl y a lte rs th e p hysic al w orld te nd s to v anis h f r o m

sig ht. T he fe m in is ts o f m y genera ti o n tr ie d to b rin g so m e o f it in to th e lig ht o f d ay, b ut, lik e b usy

pro fe ssio nal w om en fle ein g th e h o use in th e m orn in g, th ey le ft th e p ro je ct u nfin is h ed , th e d eb ate b ro ken

off i n m id -s e nte nce, th e n o ble i n te nti o ns u nfu lfille d . S ooner o r l a te r, s o m eo ne e ls e w ill h av e to f in is h th e

jo b.

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