The Irony of Ironing in Olsens I Stand Here Ironing

From the essay The Irony of Ironing in Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing it is clear, that Olsen shows that poor and working-class families cannot hold high hopes for economic development in their lives. Poor parents cannot earn enough money to provide the basic needs of their children, which makes them physically vulnerable. Emily gets sick with measles and the mother is forced to send her to the only convalescent home that she can afford. The irony is that Emily might have felt better physically to some extent, but she grew thin from bad food and bad love. Emily reveals to her mother that she barely eats because of bad food: They had runny eggs for breakfast or mush with lumps… (Olsen 4). The image of runny eggs and mush represent something that is not properly cooked, like her children. They can never have enough basic necessities because the mother cannot sufficiently provide it. Aside from bad food, Emily gets bad love. The mother believes that a rule quietly hangs before the parents: Not To Be Contaminated by Parental Germs or Physical Affection (Olsen 4). Nowadays, medicine is calling parents to show affection toward their children, like kissing and hugging them, because it can help their children grow healthy or recover from illnesses. Paradoxically, in the convalescent home, children hardly get well because of these rules against physical affection. But the mother cannot do anything about it. She is always ironing. In other words, she is always working. Her work keeps her family afloat and broken at the same time. Ironing is a woman’s job, like the rest of the jobs that becomes more challenging when the protagonist is a poor working-class single mother. As a woman, the mother does various household chores, such as ironing and feeding her children, but it gets more difficult when the father leaves her. At least the father had a choice. he left because could no longer endure…sharing want with us (Olsen 2). Can a mother do that to her children? Apparently in the case of the protagonist, she can, but she did not. She chose to silently bear her cross, even if it multiplies with every child. Aside from not being able to meet their children’s basic needs, low-social-class parents cannot provide quality care for their children. The mother has a crushed tone in her voice because she has too many children. Too many children mean too many household work and financial demands: I was a young mother, I was a distracted mother. There were the other children pushing up, demanding (Olsen 7). She knows that she has her faults. As a young mother, she lacks parenting knowledge and skills. As a poor mother, she must work at home and outside it to make ends meet. The ultimate price is not being equally there for her children. The mother remembers having another child, and how it affects Emily. The result is sibling rivalry because two young children have to demand the attention and love from one mother: