Source: Simon and Schuster
Stephanie Land’s daughter, Emilia, was 7 months old when Land was forced to leave her unstable partner. What happened next for the single mother was homeless And food insecurity — but somehow, at the same time, Land also worked to finish college and pursue a career as a writer.
Her memoir, “Maid,” became a bestseller in 2019 and then, two years later, a popular Netflix series chronicled Land’s work cleaning houses for $9 an hour. Her new book, “Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education,” released Nov. 7, tells the story of how she rose from poverty and became a writer — paying off nearly $50,000 in student debt to make -THE.
Like Land, more than 33% of single mothers reported food insecurity in 2022, according to a recent study. report by the US Department of Agriculture found.
“The struggle to make rent, eat, and find child care was constant,” Land writes. “I never had a break.”
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CNBC interviewed Land last month. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Annie Nova: I notice that whenever you’re faced with a big setback or problem, you don’t really have time to feel much about it. You write that you need to know immediately what to do.
Stéphanie Terre: Yeah. There’s a line in the book that says, “I haven’t had the privilege of feeling.” And this extended to my daughter as well. There just wasn’t time. I’ve had the same therapist for five or six years now, and it’s mind-blowing how much I lacked this kind of care. By simply acknowledging that an experience was really difficult and taking the time to try to process it, we never had time for that. It was always, “Okay, we have to go.” » And I think there are several levels to this: I couldn’t get angry about the lack of government aid programs because, you know, an angry person is often not treated very well. They are often given fewer resources.
AN: The child support you received from your daughter’s father never seemed enough. What problems do you have with the child support system in the United States?
SL: I really struggled with the fact that they were still imputing my full-time income, but I didn’t have enough child care to work full-time. I was making $40 a week, or something like that. So it didn’t really seem useful to me.
AN: What’s it like having to go to court demanding money from someone you dated?
SL: It’s hell. There’s really no gentle way to say it. Especially as a survivor of domestic violence. When I first went to court after he kicked us out and kicked us out of the window, the judge said in open court: “The question before us is whether a reasonable person would feel threatened.” And he said, “No.” And so, I showed myself to be unreasonable. I also think I was looked down upon because I was homeless. And I had left a home that, you know, to everyone else, seemed stable. He had a full-time job and I wasn’t working. And so I was the “bad parent”. Because he hadn’t been accused of abuse or because it wasn’t visible, it was as if it never happened.
AN: How long were you and your daughter homeless?
SL: The first time was for almost six months. We moved in with my dad for a little while. It did not work. And then we had the little cabin in the homeless shelter system. We really didn’t have much. All of our main items that we used would fit in my car.
And so, it was just kind of like, “Oh, well, we’re sleeping here now.” I don’t think my daughter was really affected by all of this because she was so little. My main concern was simply finding a job. You can’t really escape homelessness if you don’t have money to pay the rent. But it was impossible because I didn’t have childcare.
AN: Your daughter was so young when there wasn’t enough to eat. How did this affect him?
SL: It was hard. It took her several years to stop being afraid of new food, because even though I tried not to be stressed about what she ate or what she didn’t eat, there was this sort of afraid of: “What if I don’t like it? Because we couldn’t waste food. And it’s not like I screamed or anything. But it was frustrating when your child didn’t want to eat and you didn’t have money to buy anything else. I couldn’t make another dinner.
AN: You wrote about your desire to escape, as your mother did to Europe. What do you think this fantasy was about?
SL: I needed a bathroom break of more than a few minutes. As a poor woman and single mother, the stress we feel from not being able to feed and house ourselves has been documented just how much it takes on your body. Cognitively, it lowers your IQ. And it’s pretty recognizable, the amount of stress you’re under. It’s constant and there’s no escaping it. And there were times when I really wanted to get away from it.
AN: While you were struggling to work and raise your daughter, you were also studying literature. How did you focus on topics like Shakespeare while facing eviction?
SL: I just had to do it. It was a duty. And when I started freelancing, it was the exact same situation. I think one of the most valuable things college taught me was how to write a paper even when my life is in chaos.
AN: You’ve published books and now own a home. What does it feel like to be more stable?
SL: I always worry about everything. A weird smell or a weird noise, and I’m afraid it’ll all go away. But this could live with me forever.