Unformatted text preview: back at her plate of crustless tuna sandwiches and carrot sticks.
Throughout the afternoon, nannies shook their heads in dismay and made comments about
the “bad” food and the piñata full of cheap plastic toys instead of traditional candy.
According to Devault (1991), women use food to project an identity and construct group
membership; nannies judged the food at the birthday party as inadequate and lacking.
Interestingly, the food at the party was no worse than the most meager potlucks, meals
about which no one complained. Thus, nannies’ opinions regarding the food’s quality had
more to do with who provided it, than what it was.
When employers come to the park, nannies feel as if they are “on stage” and scrutinized
(Goffman 1959). Nannies enjoy autonomy and relative privacy at Pebble Park. They resent
their employer ’s intrusions because they believe unannounced arrivals actually make caring
for children more challenging and are a signal employers do not trust them to do their job.
The fact that nannies’ experiences with employers at the park are different than their
experiences with one reinforces the boundaries between nannies and employers, while
simultaneously uniting the nannies around similar grievances. Discussion
This paper adds to an existing literature on how “socially isolated” domestic workers “use”
public areas to create spaces for community life (Lan 2006; Parreñas 2001). Lan (2006)
describes how domestic workers privatize and ethnicize public spheres and exert a collective
presence on the urban landscape by “turning train stations into their picnic sites” (p. 161).
Similarly, nannies at Pebble Park use the space to create a community of co-workers.
Parreñas (2001) shows that Filipina domestic workers in Rome create community by utilizing
“hidden pockets” in public spaces where women share their feelings of isolation in the
dominant society, and are governed by norms and practices of mutual assistance.
Public spaces are important for domestic workers’ community life. As evidenced by
Lucy’s statement that coming to the park is her favorite part of her job, Pebble Park is
important to the women who work there. At Pebble Park nannies come together regularly
around similar projects. They turn care work into a collective act by helping watching
children together and creating group activities. Working at the park affords nannies
opportunities to laugh, gossip, and share stories with one another and reinforces group
values like sharing and reciprocity. Through the creation of a weekly potluck, nannies share
food and simultaneously convey group membership and identity.
Lan (2006) and Parreñas (2001) suggest that small communities of domestics ultimately
extend beyond the public spaces in which they initially began. Similarly, the friendship
networks created at Pebble Park ultimately extend beyond the park’s boundaries. Nannies
lean on each other for social support unrelated to work, and during non-work ho...
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- Spring '10