Mary Romero’s Life as the Maid’s Daughter is an essential piece of literature highlighting the differences between white upper-middle-class and Mexican working-class societies. The research was assisted by private household workers of color, sharing their experiences and struggles. The narrative follows Teresa’s life, a live-in maid’s daughter, exploring the constant social and racial challenges and the ever-changing boundaries of exclusion and inclusion. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Teresa’s socialization skills were shaped by social order, class, and ethnicity.
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Being born to and raised by a Mexican maid in a white household limits Teresa’s life and freedom. Previously living in a drastically different community, her world was forcefully limited by white society’s social rules and order, which she had to understand as a toddler. The first English words she learned were “no touch,” “do not do this, do not do that” (Romero 103). She was pressured to assimilate into the white culture, starting by changing her behavior. Additionally, she was expected to communicate in English, despite spending her earliest years in Mexico speaking Spanish (Romero 104). Being a child, she was forced to understand her position, learn to recognize social cues, and speak and behave in a certain manner in the presence of her mother’s employers.
Despite being a daughter of a live-in maid, Teresa was not employed by the family she lived with, which greatly impacted the experience of class distinction. As one of the family’s children moved to college, Teresa was allowed to have their room (Romero 106). She was also positioned at family dinner tables if there was a space (Romero 106). The availability of this space influenced her inclusiveness in the family. She was constantly living on the borderline of being one of the family and the other. Such a way of changing her behavior to meet the expectations of the employer’s family based on situational availability forced Teresa to develop acute social skills. She learned how to assess the rules governing a specific social setting and act accordingly.
Living under the roof of an upper-middle-class white family is impactful for a Mexican girl. It is sometimes difficult to maintain one’s cultural identity in such situations. For that purpose, she and her mother visited other Mexican maids in the neighborhoods on the weekends (Romero 109). There, they socialized in Spanish, discussed and gossiped about their employers, approved or disapproved of their practices, and shared their experiences (Romero 110). Teresa maintained and participated in her Mexican culture and language by being free and independent of the employer’s family rules and white society. Such behavior and social rules changes in Teresa’s life taught her to be a competent social actor in both environments.
Despite being loved by and included in the white employer’s family, the life of a Mexican maid’s daughter could not be easy. Being forced to learn and adapt to a new society and culture with a different language significantly influenced Teresa’s socialization skills. From an early age, she was pressured to understand and behave according to the social order and rules of white society. The constant change of Teresa’s inclusions and exclusions in the employer’s family taught her to assess any social setting and act accordingly. Her ethnicity was challenged by dominantly white society; however, she managed to keep her cultural identity and acquire the skills of a profound social actor.
Romero, Mary. “Life as the maid’s daughter.” Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life Readings, 2004, pp. 102-113.