What Maid Shows Us About Mothers 

What Maid Shows Us About Mothers
What Maid Shows Us About Mothers

Like 67 million people across the globe, I binged the Netflix limited series Maid in just a week. The series is loosely based on a memoir by Stephanie Land titled Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and A Mother’s Will to Survive. The series and the memoir explore poverty, domestic violence, and motherhood themes. I read Land’s memoir when it came out in 2019 and found it spellbinding. The series captures the essence of the memoir perfectly. How difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. How expensive it is to be poor. But what spoke to me the most was the relationship between the mother and her two-year-old daughter. 

Young Child and Mother a Central Theme

Few movies or television shows focus on young children. In TV and film, young children are usually in the background of a scene and rarely drive the storyline. Rarely is the relationship between a young child and a mother a central theme. Perhaps it just isn’t that interesting to most people. But for me, as a mother and a professional in the field of Infant-Mental Health, I find this relationship to be one of the most compelling things you can watch.

What Maid Shows Us About Mothers
What Maid Shows Us About Mothers

Woman Sees Herself as a Failure

In the first episode of Maid, after fleeing her abusive partner, the central character Alex goes to social services for assistance. A social worker asks: “Do you have any special skills?” The show flashes to Alex’s memories of two years old: spinning her in the air, holding her hand, going on hikes, picking flowers, and sharing smiles and laughs. Alex answers, “no.” In Maid, we are introduced to a woman who sees herself as a failure in every possible way. Alex got accepted to college but never went. Alex accidentally got pregnant with a man who didn’t want her baby. She stayed in a relationship with an abuser even though she knew she should leave. At the beginning of the series, Alex has no money, no bank account, no car, no house, no friends or supportive family members. We see a human being with intelligence, spirit, and talent who has been systematically broken by oppression, poverty, sexism, and classism. 

We See a Mother Who Sacrifices for her Child

We also see an amazing mother. In the series and the events described in the memoir, we see a mother who follows her child’s initiatives, who fosters her creativity, who validates her concerns, and who protects her, at whatever personal cost. We see a mother who starves herself so her child can eat. She is a mother who puts herself in physical danger to protect her daughter. No matter how difficult the circumstances, we see an incredible mother who sacrifices for her child. Neither the book nor the show depicts Maddie’s life as perfect. Maddie has frequent illnesses from poor living conditions and going to childcare even when she is sick. Maddie hides in a cupboard, scared of her father’s rages. Maddie is taken from place to place in the middle of the night. She spends the night on the floor of a train station. We see a child who endures trauma, despite how hard her mother tries to protect her from it.

During the week I binged Maid, my husband said it was too sad for him to watch. But I didn’t see the series or the memoir as low. They uplifted me.

What Maid Shows Us About Mothers
What Maid Shows Us About Mothers

She is Happy

In Maid, we see how her relationship with her mother buffers Maddie. We see how she can laugh and play even when staying at a battered women’s shelter. Despite the hardship of her life, she is happy. She knows she is loved. She knows she is cared for. That little girl knows that she is the most crucial person in the universe in her mother’s eyes. She sees her reflection in her mother’s eyes, and this is who she becomes. Powerful and important.

When the social worker asks Alex what she is good at, she immediately flashes to being a mother. You can see how Alex wants to answer that question: I’m good at being a mom. But you can also know that she knows she cannot answer that way. Being a mother doesn’t pay the bills. It is not a quantifiable, employable skill. Alex is good at creating a healthy human being, despite the challenges of their environment. It is unpaid, consuming, and essential to the survival of our species.

A Story of Hope

Maid is not a depressing series to me. It is a story of hope. All we need to survive is one relationship like this in our lives. Alex’s daughter Maddie doesn’t have expensive toys. She experiences a great deal of instability and suffers physical and psychological consequences from her circumstances. Despite this, you know that she will be okay as a viewer (and a reader). Maddie is wearing armor, her mother’s indestructible love.



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