Mary Romero


In this Article, Romero argues that individual solutions to the problem of childcare in the United States results in hidden costs of paid reproductive labor that is transferred to the families of private household workers and nannies. Without a nationally funded childcare program that provides services for all families, regardless of economic means or citizenship status, employers are unwilling to pay a living wage and benefits to workers. Socially appropriate mothering prescribed by childcare experts, advocates child-centered, emotionally demanding, labor-intensive, and financially draining methods. The substitute mothering that is currently purchased by hiring domestics and nannies transfers the more physical and taxing part of childcare to the workers while employers upgrade their own status to mother-managers. Interviews conducted with the adult children of domestics and nannies demonstrate the social reproduction of difference in both employee and employer families. Private childcare arrangements provide a significant social space for reproducing inequality between families and for teaching children about privilege, as well as their place in the gendered, racialized, and class-based social hierarchy. Reproducing the contemporary middle-class family with all its current privileges, requires vulnerable workers who are stigmatized in the labor force by their citizenship and economic status (and frequently racialized) in order to retain an unequal distribution of reproductive labor at the societal level. Childcare policies and programs that are not inclusive of all mothers, regardless of class, race, or citizenship, maintain a system of privileges that relies on subordination.

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