Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ 2 out of 5 ⭐️‘s
This is a review on Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Oh, how I wanted to like this book! Guys, I tried so hard to like it. As I was reading it, I kept telling myself—just get through one more chapter and it has to get better, it just has to! Well, that was my mindset throughout most of the book, and it was quite a struggle (to say the least) to force myself to even finish it—and I can read almost anything…so that is saying a lot. I was so frustrated with it…I actually had to put it down at different points to vent-out-loud all my feels. To give you a little context as to why I was rooting so hard for this book to be great, I’ll give you a little backstory on me. My perspective going into this book was a unique one because at one point in time I actually was a young single mother trying to get her degree in addition to working long hours, while providing for a young child—hoping to give him the life he deserved. During that time I struggled with a lot of the same things she talks about—not to the full extent, but there are definitely some striking similarities that I recognize were a part of my own life. Because of my experience, I thought I might be able to respect, maybe even relate to or understand this book in some way or another. The result is quite the opposite and I’m disappointed because this book really could have been so much more.
What is it about?
The book is classified as nonfiction— some companies are marketing it as a social science book, although that doesn’t really fit the material. I think what’s happening is certain groups are attempting to use it as a political tool, but it just doesn’t work in this situation. It’s really more of a memoir, don’t let anyone fool you otherwise. I say this because readers aren’t going to learn much about the systems of government that are set in place to help people living in poverty, or about their shortcomings or even about what needs to be done in order to better improve them from this book. If that is what you are looking to learn more about, you aren’t going to get it here. If anything, Land speaks only highly of her experience concerning the opportunities provided to her by the government. She complains about the judgement involved and the lack of emotionally supportive case workers, and about how that made her feel bad about herself, but no where does she talk about how there wasn’t an option available to help point her in the direction she needed to go. So, getting back to what it is about…the book is told in the first person by Land and is basically a long drawn out detailed account of her day to day life during a difficult time. She talks about how she worked her way through the system, how she gave up on her dreams, about various struggles with her daughter’s father, her lack of parental support in any capacity— and how she suffered financially, emotionally, and physically while working as a minimum wage employee, struggling as a student, all the while living in undesirable conditions with a small child who struggled with health problems.
Wondering if there are any redeeming aspects to the book? Yes, some, although they are few and far between. Most importantly, I found it endearing to read about Land’s undeniable love for her daughter and the passion that drove her to find a better life for both of them. I enjoyed how honest the book reads, and how candid and vulnerable Land is in her retelling of such personal experiences. I thought the moments in the book where she addresses real setbacks, and heartache to be moving. She does this in a handful of different ways. She talks about a few instances involving the situation with her parents, and it sheds light on their complete lack of love or concern for her. Land also addresses moments involving physical abuse, which are extremely sad. There is also a part where she talks about what she dreams she might say to her mother someday, which is particularly moving. Again, the circumstances that center around real, raw, true setbacks prove to work for this type of book. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much storytelling of that nature in this book. The real gritty parts of the book could easily be condensed down into one or two chapters. With regard to quotable lines, I didn’t find myself taking down many notes or quotable material like I usually do when I read. Unfortunately, most of the comments and quotes I wrote down were to highlight something I deemed negative or to point out something she could have phrased differently. However, it is worth mentioning that there is one quote that stuck out to me that I found worth recording, she states it towards the end of the book, after some good fortune comes her way—it’s taken from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho,
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I wish I had more positive things to say about this book. I guess the only other thing I can think to mention is that I was pleased with the last chapter, it isn’t until then that the tone of her story takes on a more positive spin— she talks about some of the goals she was able to meet, and reflects on the hurdles she overcame. I can’t help but think if she had taken that approach throughout the entire book that it might have actually had the capacity to move people.
Oh, dear, I can’t go into all the bad, on the chance you might still want to read this— I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But, I’ll highlight what I found to be the biggest drawbacks to the book. When scrolling through my journal, where I recorded notes— there are twenty-two where I identified negative reactions that I was having as I read. I will try to be as brief as I can. So, the biggest setback, is the actual tone of the book, she essentially complains about her journey the entire time. I get that it was HARD, harder than what most people will ever have to endure in their entire lives. But, she doesn’t have much chance of garnering support, sympathy, or understanding when she complains about things that the average single mom or working parents living in more fortunate situations or with better jobs—also go through. For example, there are parts in the book where she complains about being a mom — in general, like about how mundane it is to walk your child around at the park or push him or her on a swing over and over…um, newsflash, that’s boring for all of us. There are also parts where she addresses issues she has with her ex— pertaining to custody proceedings, and arguments over child rearing— also not out of the normal things. She also talks about how bored and isolated she felt as she cared for a child while working and studying… I guess, what I’m getting at is, what was her goal in writing this book? Did she write it to enlighten readers about the hardships facing young single moms? To magnify the importance of having government based assistance in place? Going further yet, to bring awareness about the stigmas and labels that get stamped on the faces of the less fortunate on a regular basis — and emphasize how detrimental that can be? If what I’ve posed above were her intentions in writing this book, then I think the better tactic would have been to stick to the real struggles instead of focusing so much on the annoying things that happen in everyday life, which almost anyone would be able to relate to. If that wasn’t her goal with the book and she wanted to use it as a vent session, then, well, she achieved that. Another critique I have of the book is the over use of unnecessary details! Oh.my.word. I could not believe how many details were included, either she was trying to fill up the space on the pages to make it long enough in order to be considered a complete book, or she actually thinks we need tutorials on how to clean all sorts of different things—guys, there were parts where it’s basically a how-to on cleaning specific rooms in a house. She includes details about how much cleaning solution she puts in her bucket, even going so far as to say she fills it up with hot water too…and identifies how many sponges she uses. I can’t imagine she wasn’t put to sleep writing all of those tedious details. Also, the amount of specific facts she provides when talking about her clients and their houses…and their lives—totally irrelevant information. We did not need to know anything about those people or their lives, or what their houses looked like. I mean, how is any of that even relevant to the story?
My Take Away
Sigh. I will be disappointed for awhile about this book. The only reason I’m not giving it one star is because what Land went through was hard and the fact she was able to rise above it and be at the place she is now, is amazing. Her story should be celebrated and her tenacity, work ethic, and drive should be something we all acknowledge and praise her for. However…this book, and the platform she was given could have been used for good. She could have used her experiences to motivate other women who are struggling with some of the same things Land faced. Instead, she spends twenty six chapters complaining about how hard every single day of her life was, and uses only one chapter to talk about how she arrived at the place she is now. She could have used all twenty seven to talk about how she overcame hardship, spinning the pain and struggle into a positive message, encouraging a positive outlook in order to help women. At one point, near the end, she talks about how no one in the system has a good path for escape and that they’re basically stuck…but then goes on to say because of her mentality and the fact that she decided she could have a better life and that this phase would only be a temporary one is in fact how she was able to get a better life. She explains that she made the decision to press onward and find ways to get out of her situation, and she is living proof that it can be done, but what she doesn’t say is listen, you can do this too! Instead she says, readers, feel bad for me, and for all the other people who are in the same place that I once was. The more I think about it the more infuriated I am. She was given a moment, a voice, to use her struggles to better the lives of others, and I think she fell short — way short.
If I didn’t completely deter you away from wanting to read Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive you can purchase it through my Amazon affiliate link below— and I’ll include a link to The Alchemist too as related reading.
Have you read Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive? If so, what did you think? Did you like my review? Agree with it? Disagree? Are you still going to give the book a chance? Let me know in the comments section below! I can’t wait to hear from you!