Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
by Stephanie Land
$27.00 / $29.99 Canada
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
That thing? You’re ready to let it go.
It sparks joy, but not enough. Or it doesn’t, and you’re not sure
why you didn’t donate it before. Indeed, boxes of things are
ready for giveaway and you’re looking at sparkling-clean
digs. Did you do it yourself or, as in the new memoir, Maid
by Stephanie Land, were you assisted by a stranger in
When she was a young woman, Stephanie Land dreamed of becoming a
In the meantime, she tended bar and thought of moving from
Washington to Montana, where so many writers found home. She
took odd jobs to get by, applied for college, and met a man
who fathered her child, a girl that neither had planned on
Shortly after the baby was born, he told Land to leave.
Newly homeless and with daughter in tow, she landed in emergency
housing, then in transitional housing, awaiting final
paperwork that might’ve allowed for more stability. Her
predicament was embarrassing and exhausting; she wanted to
work, to pay her bills, and buy basic necessities. Instead,
Land endured hours-long lines, applying for grants and cards
and bandages to keep her afloat.
She became a statistic.
For Land, and millions of Americans like her, pulling oneself out
of poverty is fraught with “fragile circumstances.” Land
needed a job, but childcare was iffy and more income meant
less help. No help meant no gas money to job-seek. With
little support and few options, she started working as a
paid-under-the-table, part-time housecleaner.
“My job offered no sick pay, no vacation… no foreseeable increase
in wage,” she says, “yet… still I begged to work more.”
When “more” was not forthcoming, Land started her own fledgling
business, hustling for clients, branching out to lawn care,
and bartering for what she needed. Still, she endured
humiliation and difficulties, until a client who didn’t see
her as “invisible” gave her advice and a caseworker gave her
Your desk, bathrooms, conference room, your entire home sometimes
seems to sparkle more than normal. You write a check each
month to make it happen. Now Maid shows you who does
This, however, isn’t a new story: author Stephanie Land begins
with a few hindsight-regretful decisions and a
paycheck-to-paycheck existence that’s lost, along with
reliable shelter. Readers are likely familiar with this, and
the seemingly-endless bureaucracy that comes next.
The narrative shifts considerably, once we reach the part in
which Land takes a job as a housecleaner, but it’s not
always a good shift. There, readers get an
eloquently-written look at uncomfortable, complicated
processes that seem designed to keep people from getting out
of poverty. We also get a peek inside the life of a maid,
but Land makes the work seem like last-ditch, last-chance
employment. Housekeepers who love their jobs might beg to
In her foreword, author Barbara Ehrenreich points out a happy
ending inside this book; getting there will open your eyes
wide. You’ll absorb Maid like a sponge. You won’t be
able to let it go.