||The personal and work relations between upper-middle income mothers and the Latin American-born women they hire for paid private childcare expose a rich area of emotional and psychological interdependence, and economic and political issues.
This study examines circuits of cash, child-rearing strategies, and labor networks in a children's playground, the home workplace, and communities of origin through remittances. Ethnographic research was conducted over three years including two-dozen interviews with employees and employers, and participant observation in public spaces where Latina nannies exchanged valuable job-enhancing information, support, and tax advice. The playground became a bounded space through which many things flowed: languages, ideologies, ethnicities, and wages.
Theories regarding gender in the workplace, motherhood, and a changing economy, provide context as nannies develop complex social bonds with client children while conflicted employers anguish at leaving their children with another. Latina nannies from widely diverse backgrounds often had no experience in actual childcare, yet employers and employees see Latinas as liberally endowed with idealized qualities of motherhood. Working for an understanding employer gives nannies a significant advantage over other kinds of low-wage labor—flexibility to bring children to work when necessary—and provides earnings that benefit their own families' goals and needs. In spite of tensions, participants in this study negotiated through them to form sustainable working relationships. A former advertising art director and employer of domestic workers, I extrapolate from my findings a vision of women working for each other and together to forge healthy families, an area with important policy implications.