Mom and Employer: Learning to embrace my new roles!
It has been exactly two years (as of March 1st) that Jessica has watched and cared for my son, Yuji, while I am at work 3 days per week. Hiring Jessica has been one of the best decisions of my new life as a parent. She is like a third parent to Yuji and is a parent-mentor to me and my partner, teaching us useful parenting techniques and giving us helpful insight into our son.
Growing up, I had always wanted to be a mom and I had always envisioned raising my child without assistance. I was lucky enough to have a mom at home with me and my brother growing up and so I always thought I would do the same. When my partner and I finally decided to have a child, I was working in a field that had very few paid positions and so I quickly realized that I did not want to stop working altogether when our son was born, knowing it would be hard to re-enter my field of choice.
I had never imagined that I would become an employer. The idea of it made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, as it reminded me of the class privilege that I have and also because it would set up a direct power imbalance between me and the person who worked for me. When I think of my relationship with Jessica, this discomfort and sense of unequal power hasn’t gone away, but it has diminished in comparison to the other emotions that have developed within the relationship – love, respect, and a deep sense of trust.
Jessica is an amazing caregiver and she has taught me how to be a better parent. Through her constant optimism, boundless enthusiasm, and an amazing sense of humor, she has shown me many ways in which I can play with Yuji, can create a safe environment for mistake-making, and even discipline with love. I am indebted to her for this.
Jessica also allows me and my partner to continue our respective career paths, with complete confidence that our son is better off under the tutelage of three, not two, parents. This is an incredible gift and one that is invaluable.
For these reasons and many more, I have sought to be a fair and generous employer. That said, it hasn’t always been clear how to do that. We, along with the other families with whom we share Jessica’s care, have cobbled together our own work contracts, based upon our own work experiences as well as what we’ve gotten from limited domestic worker employer resources that exist. It hasn’t been easy and we haven’t always agreed on the terms of employment to offer Jessica.
Having clear standards for how to be an employer, including clear working conditions and workers’ rights, would help employers like me get it right. More importantly, such standards would hold those employers accountable, who perhaps aren’t as careful or as concerned about their employees, to do the right thing. It is for this reason I fully support AB889, the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, as well as the other, critical rights – like paid sick leave and vacation – that didn’t make it into the bill.
Jessica deserves good pay, good benefits and, most importantly, respect and admiration for the very hard work of child-rearing she does. And so do all of the women (and men) in the world who are helping to raise other peoples’ children. Having such standards made into law will not only benefit Jessica and other domestic workers like her, it will also benefit the thousands of families that depend on them.