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 poor regions into rich ones, they leave behind a material and emotional absence that is keenly felt by their families. 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 these daily separations.
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. Mothercoinsets out to tell these stories, recounting the experience of Mexican and Central American women living and working in the private homes of Houston, Texas, while also telling a larger story about global immigration, working motherhood, and the private experience of the public world we have all created.