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addition to planning a Thanksgiving dinner together, when Lucy found out one of the 290 Qual Sociol (2009) 32:279–292 nannies’ (who no longer attended the park) father died, she started a collection for her and
vowed to see her the following evening.
What is surprising about this small community of nannies at Pebble Park is not that it
exists—other scholars have documented that nannies create communities in public space.
Rather, what is surprising is where and when the community exists for this group of nannies
in West Los Angeles. Unlike other studies which characterize domestics’ community as
“weekend enclaves” which occur during domestics’ days off work and in marginal public
spaces, my research highlights community building that occurs while women are working
in their employers’ neighborhood.
The literature on domestic work suggests that housecleaners are the least socially
isolated of all domestic workers because they are independent contractors, highly mobile,
and create their own work schedules; meanwhile, live-in nannies are the most socially
isolated (Romero 1992; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). My research complicates previous
findings by showing that opportunities for community life are built into domestic service
jobs that require caring for children. While some employers try to limit nannies’ time away
from the home (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001; Parreñas 2001), nannies whose duties require or
allow exiting the employer ’s household and spending time in the neighborhood have
opportunities to expand their social networks in ways that decrease social isolation.
Moreover, nannies are not alone in the creation of a community at Pebble Park. Nannies
have friendly relationships with Latino employees at Pebble Park, entitling them to
privileges and small favors that other park patrons do not enjoy. Nannies build a community
through shared practices and interactions and their perception of their collective difference
from employers. These feelings of difference manifest themselves whenever employers
come to the park, transforming it from the nannies’ space into another site of surveillance.
Nannies resent employers’ intrusions into their space, particularly because their employers’
presence creates additional work for nannies who must calm children down when their
parents leave. In particular, domestics want autonomy to perform the tasks and duties
associated with their work and prefer that employers leave them to their work (HondagneuSotelo 2001).
Nannies’ relationships with one another are cultivated by their frequent interactions,
their shared language and culture, and their low-wage positions as service workers in West
Los Angeles. Nannies frequently emphasize differences from their employers by pointing
out their employers’ lack of Latino culture as a deficiency. They express their discomfort
and prefer not to spend time with “gringas” at the park. Although employers and nannies
share similar interests in that...
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- Spring '10
- Sociology, Domestic worker, Maid, Domestic workers, nannies, Pebble Park