One of my strongest memories of Debbie is when I came home from work one day and found her sitting in our living room deftly changing our baby’s diaper on her lap. She was laughing and making Aaron laugh more than I’d ever heard. I was astonished and so grateful for the joy, skill, and ease she brought to her caretaking. She loved life and brought that exuberance to our family. Aaron lit up with Debbie — or “Bee” as he called her. Debbie performed invaluable work in our home for two years, including teaching me how to be a mother. My family and I are proud to honor Debbie, who died in 2019. We are grateful for the gift she gave us of knowing her.
My relationship with Debbie also helped me begin to understand the challenges that domestic workers face. I learned from the mistakes I’d made as Debbie’s employer as well as the unfair and disrespectful way she’d been treated in other jobs. Her willingness to trust me with her stories encouraged me to tell mine. Our conversations informed my decision to start speaking publicly about my confusion and mistakes as an employer and the need for workplace standards to protect domestic workers in New York as part of the nation’s first campaign for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.