The Mother-Daughter Relationship In

“I Stand Here Ironing” Essay, Research Paper

The mother-daughter relationship in “I Stand Here Ironing”

To many people, the ideal mother-daughter relationship

is not like the one we find in this short story. In this

case, however, its not being an ideal relationship is not

the fault of the mother or daughter. Through her own

relative thoughts, the mother illustrates the circumstances

of the relationship that evolved with her daughter. Despite

the mother’s self incriminating thoughts, the dents in the

mold of their mother-daughter relationship were made by the

tough circumstances in their lives.

From the beginning we hear the mother’s self

inculpating thoughts of all she ”did or did not do.” Emily

is born into an unfortunate surrounding and, at the early

age of eight months, her mother must leave her in the care

of a woman whom Emily doesn’t favor. The mother blames

herself for her daughter’s unhappiness and yet unknowingly

justifies her actions with the immense love that she has for

her. She recognizes that she was not able to be with her

daughter at a time when young children want to cling to

their mothers the most. But what else could she do? As she

states, this was a time of the “pre-relief, pre-WPA world of

the depression(152).” When she was away from Emily, she was

working for her. She even found a job at night so she could

be with Emily during the days. The mother was doing her

best to work around the circumstances with Emily’s best

interest in mind, even at the cost of a slight dent in their

own relationship by her being away from Emily so much.

At another crucial stage in Emily’s life, when the

second baby is born, she is kept away from both her mother

and the new baby. With the obvious immense attention that

is required to the newborn, it is important for Emily to be

reassured of her mothers love to prevent feelings of

replacement and jealousy. This time the separation of

mother and daughter is caused by the measles, an occurrence

in life that no one can prevent. Still, the mother torments

herself on the thoughts that she only went to sit with Emily

twice. Granted that twice was not very much, the more she

came in contact with Emily, the greater risk of endangering

the life of Emily’s sibling. Here is when Emily begins to

slowly adjust to the absence of her mothers physical


When Emily is sent away to a convalescent home in the

country so she can have the “‘kind of food and care(154)’”

her mother cannot provide for her, her adjustment to the

absence of physical warmth from her mother is finalized.

Emily and her mother write letters to each other every other

day and on sundays are able to see each other. But, there

is never any sort of touching. Because of the strict rules

of this place where she is at, Emily is subjected to conform

with the letters and weekly visits from her mother as the

only form of nurture from her mother. By the time the

mother is able to be close to her daughter again, she isn’t

accepted with open arms. She rushes to Emily’s bedside at

any slight sound of restlessness coming from there. Instead

of accepting her mothers nurturing, Emily coldly

responds,”’I’m all right, go back to sleep, Mother(154)’”.

It is too late. Emily no longer yearns for the touch or

comfort of her mother. Another dent has been made in their

relationship by a difficult circumstance in life of which

they have to deal with.

Aside the mothers condemning thoughts, Emily’s

relationship with her evolved into a rather cold, yet not

distant one, as a result of these incidents. Although the

presence and touch was not always there in their

relationship, communication clearly was.


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