I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen
Stephanie Fernandez Instructor Larson Enc 1102 September 30, 2011 Society’s Blind Eye Many women in today’s society are struck with reality when suddenly they are left to fend for themselves and a young offspring; this hold true for Emily’s mother in Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”. This is a story about a mother having a flashback on her daughter’s life, and how she has played a role in each stage of it. She reminisces on how she deprived her daughter of that stability she longed for, wishing she could go back in time and give it another try.
Waking up to feed your children, and nurture them as their emotionally deprived souls seek love and affection is so easy to do when you don’t have the weight of the world on your shoulders. There is so much pressure to raise children the “right” way according to society. When women have to provide financially for their family, time is divided, and has to be balanced precisely. Parenting is severely hindered by the financial and emotional stress placed upon single mothers in society.
When you have both mother and father in a home- the financial responsibilities, along with parental responsibilities are split between two people. A single mother has to work twice as hard to meet the family’s financial and emotional obligations. Society is the first to see when something is going wrong with a child, but turn a blind eye when the mother is struggling to keep a roof over that same child’s head. Emily’s mother maintained a hard work ethic to provide for her daughter, but when that still fell short, she had no choice but to give her away for a while until she got back on her feet.
The narrator reminisces leaving her daughter at a daycare, while she would work, but when she would return to pick her daughter up she would begin bawl. This holds true for too many women, having to leave their children in the hands of others, for their own good. It is devastating to know that another woman has to raise a child that isn’t hers, and she too is doing it for money. A daycare could never provide, or come close to providing the emotional comfort that a mother will give her own child. Unfortunately, single working mothers do not have a choice.
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Society points fingers, with no clear direction as to where to go or what the mothers are expected to do. There are no special rules when it comes to single parenting. There is no such thing as a this-is-how-you-raise-children handbook being handed out to new mothers in hospitals. Why does society have a silent requirement for mothers to have all the answers, when they simply are just not provided? Tillie Olsen clearly states her narrators’ ambiguity in the second paragraph when she says, “Even if I came, what good would it do?
You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key? She has lived for nineteen years. There is all that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me” (par 3). There is no way that any parent can be with their child every waking moment of their life to guide them in a desired path. Even less likely is a single working mother able to perform or attempt to perform such a significant task in her child’s life. Children grow up to be more distant from their mothers, because of that lack of communication, and there is nothing that can be done to make up for that lost time.
Something has to give in order for there to be any sort of stability in a single parent home. Most single parents are women. For many, many years, it has been known that in order to produce a chubby being, a man needs to take part in the baby making process. Too much responsibility and too much blame have been placed on mothers for the lack of their offspring’s healthy childhood and as good mothers, they overlook the allegations being placed on them, and continue to strive for their children.
When Emily’s father “‘could no longer endure’”, the narrator did the best she could to provide for her. All of the weight falls on the mother in the unfortunate event that the father leaves. The mother no longer has a choice but to be strong, and endure what the father clearly didn’t have in him to. Fathers are equally responsible for the way their child turns out to be. Single middle class women have an obstacle placed before them that not one person, besides another woman in her same position can relate to.
They are responsible for raising happy healthy children, even if their insides are drowning with sorrow. For many years, women have been held on a pedestal, expected to obey the silent rules placed before them, and for many years, they have. Emily’s mother had worked very hard to get her daughter where she had got her, and a talented young woman did she turn out to be! But the question was still asked, question that she did not have the answer for, and she never will. Resources Olsen, Tillie. “I Stand Here Ironing”. Web Site: Alexanderbecquer. Publisher: Becquer Publishing Company.