What happened between Stephanie Land and her ex-boyfriend Jamie? How did Stephanie escape the abusive relationship?
In her autobiography Maid, Land describes the psychological and emotional abuse she endured from Jamie (whose real name was excluded from the book). Their unstable relationship forces Stephanie to become a single mother to their daughter Mia.
Continue reading to learn about Stephanie Land and Jamie’s relationship.
Stephanie Land and Jamie’s Relationship
In her late 20s, Stephanie Land and Jamie meet. They both work at cafes and in a variety of odd jobs in Port Townsend. Both have big plans for the future. Land has always wanted to become a writer. She dreams of attending the writing program at the University of Montana. Jamie suggests that Land move into his trailer so that they can save money toward achieving their goals.
Land and Jamie have known each other for only four months when she gets pregnant. Land had used birth control, and she isn’t against abortion, but she wants to be a mother. She wants to keep the pregnancy a secret and continue with her plans to go to college, but she also wants to give Jamie the chance to be a father. She realizes that having a baby means staying in Port Townsend and putting her plans to be a writer on hold.
Jamie tries to convince Land to get an abortion. When she doesn’t, he begins a pattern of angry outbursts and threatens Land that he won’t pay child support.
Land lives with Jamie throughout her pregnancy and during the first seven months of her daughter, Mia’s, life. During this time, Jamie continues his rages, threats, and insults. He calls Land ugly, stupid, and crazy.
Land no longer feels safe. She decides to move in with her father and his new family. When she asks Jamie for child support, he crumples a paper containing the child support calculation and throws it in her face. He yells and threatens to take Mia away from Land. When he punches through a window, Land calls a domestic violence hotline and the police come and take a report. She feels relieved that she can point to physical evidence of Jamie’s abusive behavior because much of his abuse up to that point has been invisible—it didn’t leave bruises. The police report feels like confirmation that Jamie is abusive and reassures her that she’s not crazy.
Custody Battle With Jamie
After Stephanie Land and Mia move out of Jamie’s trailer, she and Jamie engage in a battle for custody of Mia. Jamie accuses Land of being mentally unstable, arguing that she’s an unfit mother because she’s depressed. However, Land’s depression was caused by Jamie’s emotional and verbal abuse.
Land ultimately wins full custody of Mia, and Jamie has visitation rights. But Land lives in fear that her precarious living situation will affect her custody rights. For example, when a woman in transitional housing tries to kill herself, Land is concerned that Jamie will find out and use that against her by claiming Mia is in an unsafe environment.
(Shortform note: Land and Jamie’s custody battle may represent another form of emotional abuse known as post-separation abuse. Post-separation abuse occurs when a person uses the court system to control and harass their former partner, often stretching out legal proceedings indefinitely in an attempt to exact a financial and psychological toll. This can take the form of an abuser arguing for custody not out of love for their child, but out of a desire to maintain an ongoing means of inflicting abuse on their former partner.)
Moving to Montana to Attend College
Stephanie Land still dreams of moving to Montana and becoming a writer, but she’s afraid that Jamie won’t let her take Mia to another state. Using money from a scholarship she’s earned for domestic violence survivors, she manages to take her first vacation in years to visit Missoula. When she tells Jamie she wants to move there, he coaches Mia to say she doesn’t want to go. He threatens Land that he will tell Mia that her mom wants to take her away from her dad.
Land and Mia move to Missoula anyway. Slowly, their lives start to improve. Land starts attending college classes. She gets a job cleaning an office building and has an essay published in a magazine.
One weekend, she and Mia hike to the top of “the M,” the mountain near the University of Montana with the school’s letter on the side. From the top, they can see the university campus and the auditorium where Mia will watch Land graduate in two years with a degree in English and creative writing. Land feels they didn’t just make it up the mountain that day, they made it to a better life.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Stephanie Land's "Maid" at Shortform .
Here's what you'll find in our full Maid summary :
- The true story of a single mother who struggled to make ends meet as a housekeeper
- A social commentary on the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality
- Background information, research, and statistics on the key themes in the memoir