”Maid,” by Stephanie Land, Hatchett, 2019, 288 pages

Stephanie Land is a fighter. She’s determined to make a better life for her 3-year-old daughter, Mia. In this eye-opening book she writes about what it’s like for a single mother with no family support, how difficult it is to be truly on your own. “Maid” is compelling because it’s so personal.

The people who clean our houses, tend to our yards, hear the scorn in people voices at the grocery store checkout when she uses food stamps. They accuse anyone using the system of abusing the system. Even the smallest increase in income from her work, means a significant loss of meager benefits.

Land is sharing her life with us, not whining or blaming. She tells of her feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and desperation as she tries so hard to get a little ahead.

Until we have walked in her shoes, listened to criticism for using the complicated system of government assistance programs and continuing to fall behind, we can’t imagine her life.

Stephanie and Mia started in a homeless shelter, but eventually transitioned to a tiny bit better apartment. When she met Travis he invited her to move in with him on his farm. But he treated her like a farm hand. She began to work cleaning houses for minimum wage, no assistance with cleaning supplies or gas for her car. These are workers who usually go unseen and their stories untold.

Just the least bad luck sets her back, and she began to think she’d never get to add college to her tight schedule. When she called on Mia’s father to share child care, he answered her with contempt. She couldn’t get above the poverty line in spite of her efforts.

Stephanie Land has a hard life, but she also has hope and resilience. She finds joy in small moments that are often overlooked in the distraction of material things. “Maid” is an important work of journalism that offers an insightful and unique perspective on a segment of the working poor from someone who has lived it.

“Every single parent teetering on poverty does this. We work, we love, we do. And the stress of it all, the exhaustion leaves us hollowed. Scraped out,” she says.

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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