Maid by Stephanie Land

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Scott 2
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Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Maid by Stephanie Land

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The memoir of a young single mother trying to make it on her own, working as a maid. She spends several years living below the poverty level and describes the experience in great detail. Random bits I found interesting:

1. Her daughter is on Medicaid. Depending on income, sometimes the author is also insured through Medicaid. She firmly believes doctors treat her differently because of it. She describes a small outpatient procedure for her daughter moving forward, despite the daughter being sick. She then gets rushed out of the hospital. This matches what I've read - doctors get lower re-imbursement rates for Medicaid and view the associated patients as charity work. It highlights a risk of the ERE strategy to used Medicaid.

2. Unlike the ERE strategy of living voluntarily below the poverty line, her position is tremendously fragile. The book is a stream of tiny life events cascading her into trouble. She has no assets, and any time her cash flow increases, it reduces the government programs she depends upon. That makes building a cash buffer nearly impossible. When she does get some money, one of the cascading events typically comes along and wipes it out.

3. Because of this fragility, how customers treated her had an outsized impact on her life. Something as simple forgetting about an appointment, causing her to lose a few hours of work, could send her life into a spiral. Alternatively, being flexible with when she worked could let her double a day's earnings, or take much needed time to care for her daughter. Seemingly token events, like letting her look through the "too donate" pile make an impact large enough to have warranted pages in the book. A good reminder on how important it is to treat someone helping you well.

4. She has a favorable view of the woman who employs her as a cleaner, despite the poverty level wages. She is grateful for the opportunity to work, very appreciative of the hours offered. Eventually, she also finds a few of her own clients, which offers double the hourly rate. But this doesn't shake her gratitude towards the low paying employer. Her life is so overwhelming, she doesn't have the resources to simply drop the poorly paid work until she can develop more of the good stuff.

5. Her jump into single motherhood was sudden, due to an abusive partner. Because he's constantly involved in her life, he is a constant emotional drain. She sometimes benefits from the free time offered by his custody periods, but the child support barely covers the cost of coordinating child hand offs, etc.

6. Recovery involves heavy use of government assistance programs. Interfacing with them burns a lot of her available time, sometimes to the point where the benefits fail to offer value. My general view on government programs has always been, if you can qualify, absolutely take advantage. We're all playing against the same rule set, after all. I was surprised how much they can suck. Her lived experience was also that some people, upon seeing her use benefits, would offer a "you're welcome!" - as if she personally took their tax dollars.

6. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation often impact her decision making. It forces small sub-optimal choices, like eating cliff bars for breakfast. It also causes her to make far larger mistakes that cascade through life.

7. There are some glimpses of non-financial resourcefulness at home within ERE. She dates a farmer for awhile, staying with him and helping around the house. At first this seems like an "easy mode" solution to the poverty, but the tradeoffs quickly mount. Even after they split up, she convinces him to let her harvest from the garden they'd been working on. She barters cleaning services for things like baby clothes and reduced rent. She finds free activities for her daughter, etc. Part of me couldn't help but observe - for the ERE male seeking a partner, she's got everything but the money! Incidentally, she has a lot of frustration over men wanting to rescue her, instead of treat her as a peer.

8. She pulls herself out of poverty with a writing career. It was interesting to browse her Instagram and see what that post-poverty life looks like. The Peloton bike stood out to me. I'd be interested to know what her new husband does for a living, if they are peering financially.

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