24 | Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid tells the story of how Stephanie Land, a single mother living in Washington, could not make ends meet despite working as a maid and receiving supplemental social services. On top of incredible financial stress, her daughter’s father is abusive and demanding, her own parents selfish and absent, leaving her without a vital support system to help her stay afloat. While I certainly do not want to discredit Stephanie Land’s experiences, as this is her book and I haven’t written one let alone experienced poverty, there were numerous points throughout the book I felt Land had gotten herself stuck where she was due to poor decision making. She stayed with an abusive man, had a baby with him despite the fact he did not want one, received several small sums of money and spent them on frivolous items, just to name a few. All of these anecdotes were characterized in such a way that did not put the blame on herself, but rather some vague institutional force she felt was suppressing her potential.

Land’s life was extremely hard. She writes about her daughter learning to walk in a homeless shelter. The fact her daughter only had one small toy figurine to play with. She often drank coffee to quell her hunger. There is no doubt how desperate her situation was to not only care for herself, but to care for her daughter. She made sacrifice after sacrifice, only buying vegetables on clearance, always making sure Mia had healthy foods to eat, and bringing Mia to the doctor’s to receive care though she could not always afford the treatments. She talks about just how little support her employer gave, not reimbursing her for gas money or time when Land drove to a client’s house, only to be met by a locked door because the client had forgotten.

Yet I didn’t always feel sympathy or pity for her. She dedicates numerous chapters to the back-breaking work she does, and buried in the details of scrubbing toilets, picking up dirty tissues presumably with men’s semen in them, and cleaning up constantly after clients, she writes about how she goes through medicine cabinets, peaks into urns sitting on the mantle, and makes all kinds of judgmental remarks on her clients’ appearances, dispositions and family politics. This aspect of her personality really put me off, for if she actually did these things, she most certainly shouldn’t have written about these voyeuristic endeavors in her book and should have kept them to herself. Secondly, she often referenced different men she had met through dating websites, bringing them around her daughter, and on a number of occasions, receiving favors from them. One man, Travis, turned out to be a downright misogynistic douche who she and Mia lived with a year who verbally degraded Land, refused to compensate her for work she’s done around his parent’s farm and ordered her to hand over the money she made doing odd-jobs. Despite all these problems, Land is reluctant to leave him because she feels Travis is a good father figure to Mia. While I’m no psychologist, Land seems to be quite easily manipulated and to be dealing with insecurities that inhibit her sense of responsibility.

Though the book is no masterpiece, it is admirable how far Land has come from working as a cleaner to published a book that has been widely circulated and reviewed. I would most certain not compare it to Evicted by Matthew Desmond, in it’s own right it does communicate exactly what Land wants it to. That people don’t expect to find themselves in that type of desperate situation ever, but when they do, they realize just how difficult it is to get out.