Mothercoin: The Stories of Immigrant Nannies by Elizabeth Cummins Muñoz
From Beacon Press:
A historical and cultural exploration of the devastating consequences of undervaluing those who conduct the “women’s work” of childcare and housekeeping
Mothercoin tells stories of immigrant nannies, mainly from Mexico and Central America, living and working in private homes in the US, while also telling a larger story about global immigration, working motherhood, and the private experience of the public world we have created. In taking up the mothercoin – the work of mothering, divorced from family and exchanged in a global market – immigrant nannies embody a grave contradiction: While “women’s work” of childcare and housekeeping is relegated to the private sphere and remains largely invisible to the public world, the love and labor required to mother are fundamental to the functioning of that world. Listening to the stories of these workers reveals the devastating consequences of undervaluing this work.
As cleaners and caregivers are exported from poorer regions into richer ones, they leave behind a material and emotional absence that is keenly felt by their families. Meanwhile, on the other side of these borders, children of wealthier regions are bathed and diapered and cared for in clean homes with folded laundry and sopa de arroz simmering on the stove, while their parents work ever longer hours and often struggle themselves with the conflicting demands of work and family. In the US, many of these women’s voices are silenced by language or fear or the habit of powerlessness. But even in the shadows, immigrant nannies live full and complicated lives moved by desire and loss and anger and passion. Mothercoin sets out to tell these stories, tracing the intimate consequences of choices made at the crossroads of globalization, immigration, and the judgments we make about who is a “good” mother.