Emily's mother feels guilt about the quality of Emily's childhood. After her marriage to Emily's father ended, she struggled to make ends meet and care for Emily. The fact that Emily had to endure separation, daycare, bad teachers, illness, and poverty weighs heavily on Emily's mother. After her remarriage and the birth of her additional children, she feels that Emily was pushed aside and likely felt like an outsider since she looked different and had a different father.
Yet Emily's mother knows that she had to work and leave Emily with others in order for them both to survive. Because she had to, Emily gradually became physically and emotionally stronger. Ultimately, she becomes a performer and is able to make others laugh; arguably, she might not have grown into this ability had her childhood turned out differently. So, like many parents, Emily's mother feels she may have failed to give Emily everything she wanted, but Emily's independence assures her that Emily got what she needed.