Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
by Stephanie Land
Hardcover- $16.17

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty ...

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  "Single motherhood coupled with poverty is no easy lifestyle!" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/13/19

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, Stephanie Land author and narrator
This is Stephanie Land’s story, covering a few short years. Poor and desperate, she struggles to keep her daughter, and herself, safe. Although she has family, they are no help to her when she is in need because they are also poor. In the way she portrayed them, her parents seemed self interested and irresponsible when it came to her.. There was also mental illness in the family. It didn’t feel like anyone inspired Stephanie to succeed; she kept making the same stupid mistakes, trusting the wrong people.
After a brief four month romance, she found herself pregnant, basically from a relationship with someone she hardly knew. Still, they married, and she lived in a trailer with someone who was practically a stranger. He soon showed that he could be a bit nasty, even somewhat violent. He decided that he had no interest in being responsible for her, although, he did want a relationship with their daughter. There was a custody battle which she finally won, but he often threatened to take Mia away from her and to prove her unfit. Actually, from her description, he not only sounded unfit, he sounded malevolent. Although she often worried that he was quick to anger, she felt the need to keep him in her life so he could help with Mia’s care. She needed the help so she could work, as a maid.
Keep in mind, she was not a teenager; she was a grown woman in her late twenties, who seemed to be trying to excuse her own irresponsible and immature behavior on a lack of knowledge, understanding or a lack of help from family. In truth, her family seemed very odd, with her mom married to a younger man, living in Europe, and acting like a hippie. Her father tried, but never quite succeeded at much. His second marriage made him happy, however. Her grandparents were loving and kind, but also unsuccessful and unable to help her out much when she found herself in some kind of trouble, again and again. She complained often of not having the support of anyone who loved her. She had few friends, as well.
She never noticed how her own behavior was really the cause of all her problems. She rarely seemed to think things through. She acted impulsively to satisfy her own needs, something she seemed to have learned from her parents, especially her mom, who decided at some point, she did not want to be a mother or wife any longer, and she simply left and ran off with another man. Stephanie, as a result of her background and lack of education, had few resources. She went to work as a maid, but was not able to work enough hours to provide well for her little family. A family was what she always wanted, but had difficulty attaining.
She presents herself as someone who wasn’t jealous of the people she worked for, although they all seemed needy or ill, in some way or another. She made herself out to be someone who was a hard, dedicated worker being crushed by society, not as someone who crushed her own chances of a better future because of her own behavior. After her unsuccessful relationship with Mia’s dad, Jamie, she found herself in another unsuccessful relationship, also begun after only four months. Travis seemed to want to care for her and Mia. She always seemed to search for the family care she was missing, but he, too, soon threw her out We never truly learn why she makes such poor choices or why these choices in men find her abandoned by them. She is always simply the victim or the victim of circumstances in every incident of her life.
She introduces many of the troubled people she meets, into the story, and she openly reveals their afflictions, emotional and even financial problems. When she faces adversity, she finds excuses to explain why her life is “unfair” or unfulfilled, fairly often justifying her own foolish behavior without realizing the complicity of her own decisions in her downfall. She often lacks the money to buy enough food and goes hungry to feed Mia. She wants to be a good mother, not the kind her own became, although she had fond memories of her early life with her mom. She wants to provide organic food, sunshine and excursions in the park, vacations and toys, new clothing rather than hand-me-downs, but they are out of her reach. She is unrealistic. When she does get a little extra money, from a windfall like event, like an unearned income check for thousands of dollars, she doesn’t appreciate the fact that the money of others is helping her out; she just thinks it is a gift. She does not use it wisely. She acts like a child who has suddenly realized she could open up her piggy bank. She actually excuses herself for buying a ring with diamonds because she can no longer wait for someone to love her enough to do it. She never learns to squirrel the money away for a rainy day or to make sensible, adult decisions.
Stephanie is like a child in the body of an adult. Although she is truly needy, she does not change her own behavior in any way. She buys a bottle of wine to reward herself for something when she really doesn’t have enough money for food. Mia often seems like the adult in the room, although she is way under the age of even five years old. Stephanie seems to be at her best when she learns how to work the system to get child care aid, food stamps, health care, at least for Mia, a free education and more. She talks about her guilt for not being able to provide for a child, for becoming homeless, for becoming an invisible maid working for peanuts, but she does nothing to improve her situation until several years pass. Then she applies for grants and is able to go to College in a place she always wanted to go and visit, Missoula, Montana. She loves it there. She will complete her education and after looking up some facts about her, I discovered she also goes on to have another child. Her daughters are about 5-6 years apart. She continues to make the same mistakes. She is a single mother and seems to feel that she is entitled to have the government help her while she finds her way to success.
One cannot help but feel sorry for her plight on the one hand, but also to resent her inability to realize how irresponsibly she is behaving. She had a child, although she had no visible means of supporting her and was unmarried at the time she discovered her pregnancy. As a woman in her late twenties, she was acting like a naive teenager. Yes, she loved her child and wanted to do right by her, but she never thought about how she would do this. She also wants to be happy and successful, but she doesn’t seem to believe that she has to do it on her own or that she can. She blames her circumstances for her situation, not her own choices. She resents not having family to support her, emotionally and financially. Yet, instead of growing more mature and more responsible because of the things she lacks, she seems to choose to satisfy her own needs regardless of the consequences, never taking full responsibility for her own care and the care of Mia. She blames everything and everyone for her life. She seems like a spoiled brat, albeit one without many creature comforts.
I did not sympathize with Stephanie’s attitude and surely not her behavior. She did not have to take menial jobs, even before she became pregnant. She did not have to sleep around with any Tom, Dick or Harry, for the most foolish of reasons, each time. She was old enough to understand birth control. She wallowed in her own self pity and lamented her lack of family and money, but never her own irresponsible behavior. There are so many people in similar sad circumstances who take two jobs and go to school at night to get ahead. They don’t behave as if the world owes them the living that they are not receiving, making them just give up and be irresponsible, as they pat themselves on the back when they think they are doing all they can; they are only using the system.
Why does Stephanie think that she can make the same mistakes over and over and suffer no consequences? She dismisses those who object to having their hard-earned tax dollars used to support her, and she sees no connection with the money she gets and the way it gets to her. The government had to get it from others, but to Stephanie, it is rightfully hers to use.
Yes, she found herself in dire straights, and she thought she worked hard and did the best she could, getting jobs cleaning and landscaping. Yes, she tried to keep her surroundings clean, though it was sometimes really difficult. Yes she felt empathy for other single moms, who suffered as she did. However, she never gave a really honest assessment of herself. She did not observe why many of these single moms were in desperate straits. They lived loose lives, chose their mates poorly, and thought they would not have to pay for that behavior. They were needy, emotionally deprived and often without the education to help them get ahead. Yet there were social services that had an abundance of programs to help these women get a leg up, services that others paid dearly for and often had to forego themselves, because they didn’t qualify for them.
Most of the people Stephanie met who were in need, like herself, and they were able to guide her. They knew the ropes; they knew the amazing public services that were available and although they resented jumping through hoops to get them, they did not change their lifestyles to be more responsible, to avoid needing them. They were often offered opportunities others who worked hard and were not on the public dole were unable to access or avail themselves of because they were not poor enough or they were responsible and were therefore expected to care for those who weren’t, often, in ways they could not provide for themselves.
Yes, poverty is terrible, but it was almost a self-inflicted wound in so many of the cases that Stephanie cites. Sometimes, the social services were complicit in keeping those in need in their positions by pushing them to obtain services that encouraged them to remain that way; they offered them so many opportunities to get things for nothing, it almost didn’t pay for them to work for the small salaries available to them. They may not have gotten an abundance of benefits, but they got enough to manage if they struggled a bit, without working. Sometimes the rules were self defeating, however, almost compelling those in need to remain in need.
The book has missing information. We don’t really learn the fate of the two major men in her life, Travis and Jamie. We don’t learn that she has another child out of wedlock. Who is the father of the second child I learned about these things when I researched the author further. We don’t learn where the money came from for her heavily inked body. We only learn that society has betrayed her, and that she is trying to be a successful writer. It seems as if she feels almost blameless for her choices; everyone else is responsible. She only questions her value as a mother. She has somewhat achieved her goals but she has not grown up and faced her own faults in order to correct them. She seems to feel entitled to be irresponsible and to take from the government the money provided by others who are more responsible. I enjoyed the book, but as someone who has struggled, too, I found it hard to accept her pattern of behavior.


 
  "The Hard Working Poor" by brnoze (see profile) 06/16/19

Everyone can learn something from this memoir. You may find yourself in the pages of the author's story. This is a book that is perfect for a book club choice because it begs to be discussed. Stephanie Land shares her struggles but also her dreams. Read it and recommend the book to others. It is a book that is meant to be shared. I listened to the audio book read by the author.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/22/19

 
  "" by Carolynr (see profile) 06/24/19

 
  "" by Michellelikestoread (see profile) 07/22/19

 
  "" by MrsFlutterby (see profile) 08/08/19

Hard to feel sympathy for an author who makes terrible choices, never takes the blame for her bad decisions, blames her misfortune on everyone else and drones on and on about the awful stuff she had to clean rather than being thankful she had a job at all. She seemed to feel that going to school was the answer to all her problems and yet took out massive loans which will be something else she’ll complain about. She needs to keep a gratitude journal!

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/20/19

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/19/21

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