The Nanny Dilemma
Is it fair to hire immigrant women to help raise your children when they have children of their own?
This L.A. Times story inspired very mixed feelings for me. It details the relationship between an affluent white woman and her Salvadoran nanny, and the very different lives they lead.
Margoth Enriquez helps Stacey Arnold, a stay-at-home mom to four small children, until 6 p.m. five days per week.
Then she boards a bus to the other side of town, where her 3-year-old daughter and two teenage sons anxiously await her arrival.
Similar scenes play out throughout Los Angeles County every day. Immigrant women leave their children at home — with siblings, relatives or bargain baby-sitters — so they can earn a living caring for other people's children...
Inevitably, immigrants feel the pull between their employer's children and their own families. Every day, they take their employer's children to play dates and the park, often unable to do the same with their own. They pick up their employer's children from school while theirs take buses.
Often, the only baby-sitters they can afford are untrained or unreliable.
"The immigrants are paying each other," said Arizona State University professor Mary Romero, author of "Maid in the U.S.A." "Somebody has to take care of the children. It's the nanny or the maid's child who gets the short end of the stick."
I couldn't help but think of my beloved, late Abuelita Concha, who left her five children in Mexico after their father died so she could come to the U.S. and make enough money to support them. She worked as a nanny in a swanky beachside community, eking out enough of a living to send for her children one by one.
After her death, I found pictures of the children she cared for among her belongings, along with letters and cards they sent her long after she stopped working for them. Clearly, she made an impact on their lives.
In the Times story, Stacey Arnold makes it clear she appreciates her nanny, pays her fairly and even considers her a "co-parent."
Without Margoth, Stacey says, "I probably wouldn't be as good of a parent…. I'd be pulled in so many different directions."
Having Margoth "allows me to have some freedom to do some things for myself, which in turn, I think, makes me a better parent because I come back refreshed."
As a full-time working mom, I completely understand where Stacey is coming from. Parenthood can be exhausting, and leaves you very little time for yourself. If you can afford help, that's a blessing.
But I also feel for Margoth, who will likely never have that luxury.