In today s age the rate of single motherhood is growing rapidly. The job of being a single mother is not only difficult but exhausting. Single mothers have to work extra hard to make money to pay the bills, while trying to care for there children, and also fitting time in for themselves. In the short story “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen, a single mother tries to understand what happened to her eldest child, Emily, to make her so awkward and unhappy. The three major themes of the story are the sacrifices the mother made, the love she feels for her child, and the guilt she is faced with when Emily is unhappy.
Being a single mother of several children requires making sacrifices. In this story a mother sacrificed giving her eldest child the things she needed to grow up normally. At an early age Emily was often left home alone. “Except when we left her alone nights, telling ourselves she was old enough.” (Olsen, pg. 146) As young as she was she had to grow up faster even though her mind and body wasn t ready for that. “It wasn t just a little while. I didn t cry. Three times I called you then I ran downstairs to open the door so you could come faster” (Olsen, pg. 146). Emily s mother did not realize that she was neglecting her daughter and damaging her self worth by leaving her alone at such a young age. As well as leaving Emily alone when her mother was around she did not have time for her between work and the other kids. “I was working, there were four smaller ones now, there was not time for her. She had to help be a mother, a housekeeper ” (Olsen, pg.149). Emily was forced to sacrifice part of her childhood to help her mother.
The love that a single mother feels for her child is endless and unchanging. Although it may not have been completely clear to Emily her mother loved her with all of her heart and had the best intentions for her. “What was in my face when I looked at her? I loved her. There were all the acts of love.” (Olsen, pg. 146)
To a single mother guilt is always an issue. Emily s mother always questioned in her mind if she had done the right things for Emily or if it was something she had done that caused Emily to turn out like she did. “Or I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, with what should have been and what cannot be helped” (Olsen, pg.144).
There is not enough time in the day to do the things a person wants and needs to do, especially being a single mother. With single motherhood comes sacrifices, guilt and above all love as the mother of Emily found out in the story.