Reyna Gomez

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When I was a girl, the first thing my mother taught us was that the house had to be clean. I liked that because we always had the kitchen well cleaned and the rooms well arranged.

I come from a very humble family. My father was a quiet military man who told us that women existed to care for the home. I was always very rebellious. My mom would call me a rebel without a cause because I always questioned everything. Why can’t women join the military? Why must I always be in the kitchen? Why must I be only a housewife when I’m capable of being more? My rebellious nature resulted in a more equitable home as my brothers were also taught to look after our home.

I think I have a gift, I go into a home and return it to order. An employer once told me "You must be an artist to bring order into this home and I do not know how you do it." I didn’t go to college for this, but it is an art form that is learned and mastered with time.

The hiring process is really flawed because they do not tell you everything you are expected to do. Agreements are most often verbal, and many things are omitted. When you first meet and are shown the home they say, “I just need some help around the house.” I give an estimate of how much time it will take me to clean and what my rate is based on size of the home. You come to an agreement and then once you begin working they say, “Also I need you to clean the outside patio, the fridge, and I’m going to leave the children with you as well.”

I’m put in a stressful position because I can not do everything on my own under those conditions with such little time and without added compensation. I can not overextend myself so much. The work day is supposed to be 8 hours, not 24! So I think that it's very important we learn how to negotiate with employers and get everything in writing.

That is why I became an activist because through activism I can learn to negotiate. Being an activist has given me a voice to say that I am not a robot that runs from 9am to 7pm and that I get upset and many times I clean an entire house without eating or going to the bathroom because if not, I will never finish. So that's what motivated me to be part of that women's movement of household workers.

I’d like the people who read our stories to understand that our work is not easy and that we are not robots. Employers should be mindful of the human beings that are caring for their homes and that they get tired too.

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