Gibson-Nannies

In my mouth as she wrinkled her nose and looked back

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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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