Lan, Pei-Chia. “Among women”. Berkeley Center for Working Families Working Paper No. 30, Berkeley, CA: Center for Working Families, University of California, Berkeley, 2001. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/4107.
Increasing numbers of middle-class dual-earner households in Taiwan have hired low-cost migrant women from the Philippines and Indonesia to handle the tasks of housework, childcare, and elder care. They seek domestic help not only because of the time bind between work and family, but also to retrieve some autonomy from the authority of their mothers-in-law. Domestic employment in this case reveals inequalities between maids and madams along class and racial lines as well as hierarchy between women across generations. This paper examines how contemporary Taiwanese daughters-in-law hire migrant domestic workers to negotiate their relationships with their mothers-in-law. Four modes of triangular relationship among the three women are presented: (1) The daughter-in-law seeks market transfer of the filial duty and develops comradeship with the workers vis-à-vis the authority of the mother-in-law. (2) The daughter-in-law maneuvers domestic employment to resist the mother-in-law's intervention in the conjugal family and may become another authoritative figure reproducing oppression over the migrant worker. (3) The daughter-in-law manages to smooth tensions between the mother-inlaw and the migrant worker on a daily basis. (4) The elder living apart from her children develops personal bonds with the migrant caregiver, who becomes fictive kin across ethnic boundaries.